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Race Report: Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic 2019

Matilda Price reports on Britain's 'Belgian' classic

This piece was written by Matilda Price. For more of her musings on the domestic racing scene, visit her excellent blog here. And follow her on Twitter here.

The CiCLE Classic is a race that everyone thinks they can win. That’s because it’s been won by sprinters, climbers and time triallists, from long breakaways, late attacks and bunch sprints. But also everyone thinks they can win, because everyone knows they can lose – at the touch of a wheel, thanks to a poorly-timed puncture, by a centimetre on the finish line. Whether you’re a club rider or a European professional, you know the smallest thing could make the difference between a top-10 and a DNF. On paper, the race is not incredibly hard – it is not full of big climbs, or exposed sections, or tricky descents – but the route’s 11 off-road sectors of gravel and grass tracks make the race treacherous and unpredictable, whilst the rolling Rutland terrain and 200km length make for a gruelling day out. A day out where luck and brute force often win out over tactics and race craft.

Now in its 15th edition, the CiCLE Classic is a UCI 1.2 race – currently the only race of this kind on the British calendar – meaning it attracts an increasingly international field, often welcoming teams from Belgium, the Netherlands and further afield as well as a wide range of British teams. The most exciting inclusion for 2019 came in the form of Rally-UHC, a North American Pro Continental team who came to this race off the back of Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne, already their second WorldTour race of the season. Though Rally may have appeared the strongest team in theory, they were lining up against squads with years of experience racing this tricky course and many on-form riders including 2018 winner Gabriel Cullaigh (Team Wiggins Le Col), so there was no expectation that the American team would dominate the day.

As the 174 starters from 35 teams lined up in Oakham on Sunday morning, donning and discarding various layers under the threateningly grey skies, there was certainly an air of nerves and anticipation ahead of 5 hours of tough racing. After a short neutralised section, the attacks came as soon as the flag was dropped and within 10km a break had formed, made up of the trio of Matt Nowell (Saint Piran), Wim Kleiman (Monkey Town-À Bloc) and Josh Housley (Team PB Performance).

The early break. Photo: Ian Price / https://www.ianrprice.co.uk/

Being a small group and lacking any overly threatening riders, the peloton seemed happy to let this move get away, confident they could reel them back in when they wanted to. With a couple of crashes slowing the bunch behind, the leading trio’s advantage quickly stretched to 3 minutes and counting as the race tackled the newly-added laps of Wymondham, and had grown to over 7 minutes by the time the riders hit the race’s gravel sectors. Rain earlier in the week had thrown up the possibility of muddy, slippery sectors, but by Sunday the terrain was damp at most and the rain held off, so water-filled potholes the worst the peloton had to contend with – though these did catch a few riders out.

The breakaway swept up most of the day’s prime points with Nowell and Kleiman winning the King of the Hills and Sprints competitions respectively. As the riders weaved and looped through the Rutland and Leicestershire countryside, the race situation remained stable for most of the day, with the peloton strung out but mainly intact. At the 100km completed mark, Daan Hoeyberghs (BEAT Cycling Club) and Charlie Quarterman (Holdsworth-Zappi) launched an ambitious counter-attack to chase down the leaders, who were 7 and half minutes ahead at this point. Hoeyberghs soon dropped back to the peloton, but 20-year-old Quarterman powered on, building up a gap of 2 minutes over the main group, though ultimately finding himself alone in no-man’s land as it proved too much of an ask to catch the leading trio.

Charlie Quarterman (Holdsworth-Zappi). Photo: Alex Reed

The peloton, who hadn’t really been actively chasing up until this point, started to organise themselves after Quarterman’s escape and the teams of Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes and Madison Genesis began to mass at the head of the group. Going into the final third of the race, Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes’s powerhouse Alex Paton hit the front and pushed the pace hard, rapidly eating into the breakaway’s lead which shrunk and shrunk as the kilometres counted down. When the gap had fallen to within 2 minutes, a few riders attempted to attack the peloton, most notably Jake Scott (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) but with several teams working hard to bring it all back together, these moves were short-lived. Because the breakaway’s advantage had once been so large, it took until the final 30km for the catch to finally be made. Tom Stewart (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) was among the handful of riders who tried to make a break for it as the leaders were caught, but again the peloton was not letting anyone get more than a few seconds of an advantage.

The pace of the second half of the race, combined with the effects of a tough course, meant that the back of the race had really fractured by the time the peloton arrived in Melton Mowbray for the first time, but there were still at least 40 riders at the head of the race as they entered the final 20km lap of the CiCLE Classic. With fast finishers such as Townsend (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes), Cullaigh and Thwaites (Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother) all in this leading group, and a bunch sprint looking increasingly likely, anyone who didn’t rate their chances in a sprint knew a late attack would be their only shot at the win. National champion Connor Swift (Madison Genesis) attempted just this on the Sawgate sector, but he failed to shake off the bunch as they sped towards a sprint finish in Melton Mowbray.

Connor Swift (Madison Genesis) on the Somerberg Photo: Alex Reed

Going into the final kilometre, it was Paton once again who was powering on at the head of the race, setting things up for teammate Rory Townsend, whilst Wiggins’ Tom Pidcock and Rob Scott were leading out Cullaigh. Out of the sizeable group of riders sprinting, three emerged to fight it all the way to the line – Townsend, Cullaigh, and Joyce (Rally-UHC). Two were attempting doubles of sorts – Townsend looking to add to his Klondike GP win two weeks previously, and Cullaigh metres away from becoming the first rider in the race’s history to take back-to-back wins in Melton. Taking the left-hand side of the road, Cullaigh led the sprint out and sat up smiling as he crossed the line, thinking he’d done it, but his expression changed as he saw Townsend and Joyce, heads down, having come up on the far-right, lunging to the line.

Photo: Alex Reed

As probably the best sprinter in the British peloton, Cullaigh’s confidence in thinking he’d won was certainly not misplaced, but ultimately those few seconds of celebrating instead of keeping his head down almost definitely cost him the win. After the commissaires had inspected the photo finish, Joyce was declared the winner, taking it by a fraction of a tyre width from a visibly dismayed Cullaigh and a frustrated Townsend.

What We Learnt

  • Rutland is always selective, but not always in the way we expect.When we think of a race being ‘selective’, we often imagine a race where it’s active at the front, several riders attacking until they establish an elite group. But this wasn’t really what happened on Sunday. Instead it was more a whittling down process as the pace remained so high at the front of the race, too fast for anyone to get away and plenty fast enough to continuously drop riders. Speaking to VeloUK at the finish, George Pym expressed his surprise at looking back and seeing there were only 40 riders left in the group, suggesting that it really was a gradual selection rather than an intentioned fracturing of the peloton.
  • Townsend is back on top.This was probably already clear from his win at the Klondike GP, but Sunday proved that Rory Townsend is well and truly back to the impressive form we saw from him in 2017 – able to climb well but also sprint with the best of the best. With this strength and the confidence that comes with it, Townsend will certainly be a rider to keep an eye on in the Tour de Yorkshire and the iconic Lincoln GP, a race where he definitely has more to give after coming so close in 2017.
  • Madison left us with more questions than answers.Madison Genesis seemed like they came into this race with options, but when it came down to it they really only seemed to have a Plan A. The team’s traditional sprinter, Jon Mould, has never got on with the CiCLE Classic (in fact, he’s never finished an edition) so it was the turn of Connor Swift to be their protected rider. Knowing he couldn’t beat the pure sprinters in a bunch finish, he needed a really selective group to contest the win but this just never came and his solo attacks didn’t pay off. In the end, Madison’s best finisher was George Pym in 20th, a result that – to his credit – is well within his ability and doesn’t seem like the result of a rider who was supported into the finish, despite the team’s work during the day. So what went wrong for Madison?
Matt Nowell (Saint Piran) takes maximum points on the first time up the Cold Overton Berg
Photo: Alex Reed

Rider of the Day

A few riders deserve a mention here for their efforts in the CiCLE Classic, including Alex Paton, Charlie Quarterman and Jake Scott, but the stand-out rider in my eyes was Matt Nowell. Nowell looked consistently strong and in control in the day’s break, but what really impressed me was the fact he managed to stick with the leaders in the finale, sprinting to just outside the top-20. After spending over 150km out front and winning the climbing classification, it’s certainly no small achievement to still be able to out-sprint half the leading group at the end of a 200km race. Since joining Saint Piran at the start of the 2019 season, Nowell has already picked up a few strong Nat B results so hopefully we will see him given some leadership opportunities on the road this year.

Looking Ahead

Going into May the races start coming thick and fast, starting with the Tour de Yorkshire on Thursday where all six men’s Continental teams will be competing, along with CiCLE Classic winners Rally-UHC. The National Road Series returns on Sunday 12th May with the men’s and women’s editions of the Lincoln Grand Prix. 

Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes continue to lead the Tour of Britain qualification race following. Click here to see the latest standings.


152Colin JOYCERally-UHC Cycling5:10:20
21Gabriel CULLAIGHTeam Wiggins LeColst
333Rory TOWNSENDCanyon-DHB-Bloor Homesst
487Jake SCOTTSwiftCarbon Pro Cyclingst 
56Tom PIDCOCKTeam Wiggins LeColst 
640Alex LUHRSRibble Pro Cyclingst 
729Bas VAN DER KOOIJMonkey Town-A Block CTst 
899Piotr HAVIKBEAT Cycling Clubst 
973Steve LAMPIERSaint Piranst 
1019Scott THWAITESVitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UKst 
1174Oliver MAXWELLSaint Piranst 
1296Adam TOUPALIKTeam Sauerland NRW p/b SKS Germanyst 
13103Tom MAZZONESpirit-Tifosi RTst 
1431Tom STEWARTCanyon-DHB-Bloor Homesst 
1595Felix INTRATeam Sauerland NRW p/b SKS Germanyat  00:03
164Jacques SAUVAGNARGUESTeam Wiggins LeColst 
1735Alex PATONCanyon-DHB-Bloor Homesst 
1810Stephen BAKKERWGPA Amsterdamst 
1921Alistair SLATERVitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UKst 
2017George PYMMadison-Genesisst 
2128Martin PLUTOMonkey Town-A Block CTst 
2278Matthew NOWELLSaint Piranst 
2397Daan HOEYBERGHSBEAT Cycling Clubst 
2445Kristers ANSONSLatvian National Teamst 
2598Luuc BUGTERBEAT Cycling Clubst 
26104Leon MAZZONESpirit-Tifosi RTst 
2786Isaac MUNDYSwiftCarbon Pro Cyclingst 
28102Guilaume SEYEBEAT Cycling Clubst 
2961Nathan DRAPERZappi-Holdsworthst 
3030Adriaan JANSSENMonkey Town-A Block CTst 
3125Maarten DE JONGEMonkey Town-A Block CTst 
3213Connor SWIFTMadison-Genesisst 
3316Thomas MOSESMadison-Genesisst 
3492Joann LEINAUTeam Sauerland NRW p/b SKS Germanyst 
3537Daniel BIGHAMRibble Pro Cyclingst 
3636Ollie WOODCanyon-DHB-Bloor Homesst 
3732Jacob HENNESSYCanyon-DHB-Bloor Homesst 
3853Ryan ANDERSONRally-UHC Cyclingst 
3950Robin CARPENTERRally-UHC Cyclingat  00:10
403Robert SCOTTTeam Wiggins LeColst 
4138Gruffudd LEWISRibble Pro Cyclingat  00:18
4290James SHAWSwiftCarbon Pro Cyclingat  00:56
4334Andy TENNANTCanyon-DHB-Bloor Homesst 
4439Mark STEWARTRibble Pro Cyclingat  01:49
45100Adam LEWISBEAT Cycling Clubat  02:17
4615Johnny MCEVOYMadison-Genesisat  02:31
4726Mel VAN DER VEEKENSMonkey Town-A Block CTat  03:13
4877Jake ALDERMANSaint Piranat  04:16
4927Wim KLEIMANMonkey Town-A Block CTat  04:48
5070Ruben DE MAREZDovy Keukensat  05:58
51138Lewis BULLEYRichardsons-Trek RTst 
5223Mickey MOTTRAMVitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UKat  06:04
53108Rupert GRAHAMSpirit-Tifosi RTat  06:13
5476Joe EVANSSaint Piranat  06:21
55145Oliver BATESFlamme Rouge CTat  07:20
56112Kieran SAVAGECycling Sheffieldst 
5781David BOLLANDTeam Bioracer -DHL-FR Servicesat  07:22
58141Russell DOWNINGEast MIDS-Pearces -RDAst 
59137Joseph SUTTONRichardsons-Trek RTst 
6042Will BROWNRibble Pro Cyclingat  07:23
61147William SCOTTFlamme Rouge CTat  07:24
62111Louis SZYMANSKICycling Sheffieldat  07:26
635Ben HEALYTeam Wiggins LeColst 
6485Peter WILLIAMSSwiftCarbon Pro Cyclingst 
659Wessel KRULWGPA Amsterdamat  07:39
66128Jonathan OXLEYBryan Steele Academyat  09:35
67106Jordan PEACOCKSpirit-Tifosi RTst 
68132Chris CHILDSHolohan Coaching RTst 
69119Ben WALSHGSC Blagnac VS31st 
7064Charlie QUARTERMANZappi-Holdsworthst 
7147Andz FLAKSISLatvian National Teamst 
72158Felix BARKERActive Edge RTst 
7394Louis LEINAUTeam Sauerland NRW p/b SKS Germanyst 
747Koos-Jeroen KERSWGPA Amsterdamst 
7591Johannes HODAPPTeam Sauerland NRW p/b SKS Germanyst 
76101Alex MENGOULASBEAT Cycling Clubst 
77115Ross LAMBGSC Blagnac VS31at  11:10
78161Morris BACONDAP Cyclingat  12:43
7946Aleks Janis RAZINSKISLatvian National Teamat  12:50
80121Matt DOWNIETAAP Cervelost 
81114Joe CLARKCycling Sheffieldst 
82151James HILLTeam PB Performancest 
8312Teun MOURISWGPA Amsterdamst 
848Joep STEINBUSCHWGPA Amsterdamst 
8560Fernando LOPES GONZALEZGuerciotti-Kiwi Atlanticost 
86160Laurence KIRBYActive Edge RTst 
8788Will BJERGFELTSwiftCarbon Pro Cyclingst 
88164Harley MATTHEWSDAP Cyclingst 
8979Dillon CORKERYTeam Bioracer -DHL-FR Servicesst 
9024Christopher LATHAMVitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UKst 
9189Ben HARDYSwiftCarbon Pro Cyclingst 
92107Chris DREDGESpirit-Tifosi RTst 
93156Joe PERKINSLeisure Lakes Bikesat  12:54
9466Ben HAMILTONZappi-Holdsworthat  16:31
95140Peter COCKERRichardsons-Trek RTat  17:19
OTL93Jon KNOLLETeam Sauerland NRW p/b SKS Germany
OTL120Harrison JONESGSC Blagnac VS31
OTL116Charley CALVERTGSC Blagnac VS31
OTL117Corentin DUBOISGSC Blagnac VS31
DNF2Oliver ROBINSONTeam Wiggins LeCol
DNF11Niels BOELEWGPA Amsterdam
DNF14Erick ROWSELLMadison-Genesis
DNF18Jonathan MOULDMadison-Genesis
DNF20Edward CLANCYVitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK
DNF22Adam KENWAYVitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK
DNF41Jacob TIPPERRibble Pro Cycling
DNF43Evalds PAVLOVSLatvian National Team
DNF44Andris VOSEKALNSLatvian National Team
DNF49John MURPHYRally-UHC Cycling
DNF55Jose Carlos NUÑEZ SANCHEZGuerciotti-Kiwi Atlantico
DNF57Andreas MILTIADISGuerciotti-Kiwi Atlantico
DNF58Paulo SILVAGuerciotti-Kiwi Atlantico
DNF62Reece WOODZappi-Holdsworth
DNF63Charlie MEREDITHZappi-Holdsworth
DNF65Paul WRIGHTZappi-Holdsworth
DNF67Doron WIGGINSDovy Keukens
DNF68Tiebo DEVOOGDTDovy Keukens
DNF69Jochen DEWEERDovy Keukens
DNF71Fabrizio DEKONINGDovy Keukens
DNF72Jonathan VAN BETSBRUGGEDovy Keukens
DNF75Cameron JEFFERSSaint Piran
DNF80Luke SMITHTeam Bioracer -DHL-FR Services
DNF82John BULLERTeam Bioracer -DHL-FR Services
DNF83Sean MOORETeam Bioracer -DHL-FR Services
DNF84Conor MCCANNTeam Bioracer -DHL-FR Services
DNF105Charles WALKERSpirit-Tifosi RT
DNF109Charlie RENSHAWCycling Sheffield
DNF110Tom KNIGHTCycling Sheffield
DNF113Dan PULLENCycling Sheffield
DNF125Thomas BOOTHBryan Steele Academy
DNF126Jack FORDBryan Steele Academy
DNF127Sebastian GARRYBryan Steele Academy
DNF129Kirk VICKERSHolohan Coaching RT
DNF130Danny SMITHHolohan Coaching RT
DNF131Oliver HAYWOODHolohan Coaching RT
DNF134George BECKBikestrong KTM
DNF135Andrew EDWARDSBikestrong KTM
DNF136James PHILLIPSBikestrong KTM
DNF139Mathew CLEMENTSRichardsons-Trek RT
DNF142Rob ORREast MIDS-Pearces -RDA
DNF143Colin STURGESSEast MIDS-Pearces -RDA
DNF144Tom DUSSEKEast MIDS-Pearces -RDA
DNF146Matthew EXLEYFlamme Rouge CT
DNF148Matthew HUMPAGEFlamme Rouge CT
DNF149Bradley SYMONDSTeam PB Performance
DNF150Josh HOUSLEYTeam PB Performance
DNF152Sion HARLOWTeam PB Performance
DNF153James HAYDONLeisure Lakes Bikes
DNF154William PERRETTLeisure Lakes Bikes
DNF155Jonathan HORNBLOWLeisure Lakes Bikes
DNF157Jesse YATESActive Edge RT
DNF159Charlie BRATTActive Edge RT
DNF163Andy TAYLORDAP Cycling
DNF171Michael KRUKOVTeam LDN
DNF174Alexander SIMMONSProVision RT
DNF175Jonathan BOURNEProVision RT
DNF176Ben LLOYDProVision RT
DNF177Jake WOMERSLEYCrimson Orientation Marketing RT
DNF178Tarn FYNNCrimson Orientation Marketing RT

Featured photo: Ian Price / https://www.ianrprice.co.uk/