Here we go. The biggest race of the year so far on domestic shores. The only one-day UCI road race in the UK. Dust, dirt, gravel, and grime. A precious, precious race amidst our fragile domestic road race scene. Excited? Not half.
Featured image: Joe Cotterill/The British Continental
What is it?
Rutland may well be the UK’s smallest county, but it gives name to the UK’s hardest-hitting race. A men’s UCI 1.2 race, the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic is now in its 17th year. This year’s major sponsors are Sigma Sports and Schwalbe.
Taking place on roads and farm tracks across the undulating landscape of Rutland and East Leicestershire, it is one of the most spectator-friendly races on the UK calendar. It is also Britain’s only one-day UCI road race and one of only two UK UCI road races for men, the other being the Tour of Britain.
The race’s unique terrain means it is often dubbed Britain’s ‘Belgian classic’, but in reality, it is closer in nature to races like Brittany’s Tro-Bro Léon; think dusty farm tracks and gravel rather than Flemish cobbles.
Previous winners include Malcolm Elliot (at the age of 45), Conor Dunne and Zak Dempster, as well as Ian Wilkinson, the only man to have won the race twice.
Last year’s frantic edition was one by Scotsman Finn Crockett, then of Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling. His participation this year was in doubt after the sudden collapse of his AT85 Pro Cycling team, but thankfully he will line up with number one pinned to his back thanks to a quickly-formed Scotland national team.
At 183.5 kilometres, the 2023 route is identical to the one used last year. Once again, the race features a dizzying route that takes the riders over six different sectors, some of which are visited more than once and tackled from different directions.
Starting in the village of Oakham by Rutland Water, the route heads north at first to Wymondham where awaiting fans will be treated to four circuits of the village. Here, Wymondham Windmill will be the scene of the first intermediate sprint of the race and a further sprint outside the Berkeley Arms on Main Street before the peloton heads back south again to return to Oakham. On the reverse passage through the start line in Oakham there is another sprint (the Oakham Town Sprint).
It is shortly after Oakham that the riders will reach the first off-road sector, Barleyberg. The organiser has rated each sector by severity and, as a two-star sector, the Barleyberg offers the riders a comparatively gentle start to the off-road action.
With the Barleyberg tackled, it is then on to Owston – a popular spot for fans to congregate – and the crucial sections of the course. Multiple traverses of the challenging sectors of the Somerberg and the Manorberg – as well as the ascents of Cold Overton Berg and Burrough Berg – should serve to thin the peloton out. Major selections should be made here.
|11||Barleyberg||48.47 kms||1100 m||**|
|10||Somberberg||65.83 kms||2200 m||****|
|9||Manorberg (Pass 1)||78.54 kms||700 m||****|
|8||Manorberg (Pass 2)||101.31 kms||700 m||****|
|7||Somerberg||116.12 kms||2200 m||*****|
|6||Manorberg (Reverse)||120.32 kms||1800 m||****|
|5||Newbold Manor||130.77 kms||1200 m||**|
|5a||Manorberg (Pass 3)||141.03 kms||700 m||***|
|4||Somerberg (Reverse)||143.03 kms||2200 m||*****|
|3||StaplePark (Pass 1)||157.00 kms||2100 m||****|
|2||Sawgate||168.16 kms||500 m||*****|
|1||StaplePark (Pass 2)||174.69 kms||2100 m||****|
The Somerberg, in particular, is a brute. At 2.2 km, it is tackled three times in all, and comprises a rutted farm track with grass verges on one side of the summit and loose gravel on the other.
After the last time over the Somerberg, which the riders cross in reverse, the race then begins its progress towards the finish in Melton via Cuckoo Hill and the StaplePark and Sawgate sectors. The first passage of Melton Mowbray will as ever host the special town sprint sponsored by Dickinson & Morris, with the first rider across the line winning themselves a famous giant pork pie.
The race then takes in a final lap of the Melton Mowbray circuit – including a final pass through the StaplePark sector – before the finish on Sherrard Street.
See the final startlist here.
This is the most unpredictable of races. An untimely mechanical can ruin a rider’s chances in an instant. And depending on how it is raced, we have seen from past editions it can sometimes be a reduced bunch sprint, suiting the fast men, or in more aggressive editions it can be a strong solo rider that rules the day.
Last season the race was decided in a three-way sprint with Finn Crockett (Scotland) the victor. He is back again this year and looks in great shape too, a recent winner at the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan stage race in Ireland. Third in the sprint at the Commonwealth Games last year, he has demonstrated he’s a fast finisher at the end of a tough race. a repeat win is perfectly possible.
The only ProTeam at the race, Bolton Equities Black Spoke, has a mighty line-up. Perhaps the pick from the team is Jacob Scott. He has history in this race, finishing 4th in 2019 in a reduced bunch finish and then 3rd last year when he was in the winning move. Can he go even better this season? Rory Townsend is not on the provisional startlist, but if he does ride, the Irish road race champion, third in 2019, will be another contender.
New UCI Continental team TDF-Unibet is another international outfit with a strong set of riders. Home favourite Harry Tanfield will be known to readers. But they also have Tomáš Kopecky, second last season, and Martijn Budding, a six-time UCI road race winner who favours this type of terrain.
Of the other international teams participating, there are a few more riders that catch the eye. Nicklas Amdi Pedersen (Team Coloquick) has been in excellent form this year, 8th overall at the Tour du Loir et Cher and in the mix too at the Belgian semi-classics Grand Prix Criquielion and GP Jean-Pierre Monseré last month. Sprinter Jesper Rasch (ABLOC) is another rider to watch, a stage winner at the recent Tour de Loir et Cher. Rasch’s teammate Callum MacLeod is another to watch, if he rides (he is not on the provisional startlist), after his second overall at the Tour de Loir et Cher.
Chris Lawless was one of the victims of AT85 Pro Cycling’s collapse. But the former Tour de Yorkshire winner has bagged a ride with the Lotto Dstny development team and will have a point to prove. The team also has the young Belgian talent Alex Segaert, second at the worlds U23 time trial last season, who has already come close to wins this year (second at the Youngster Coast Challenge and 3rd on a stage of the Circuit des Ardennes).
Closer to home, Britain’s last two remaining UCI Continental men’s teams – Saint Piran and TRINITY Racing – have the strongest domestic line-ups. Saint Piran’s Alex Richardson and Jack Rootkin-Gray have been in excellent form so far this season, the former a winner at the Jock Wadley Memorial, the latter, who is still just 20, won the Perfs Pedal before grabbing 4th overall at the Olympia’s Tour and then 11th on GC after racing aggressively at the Tour de Loir et Cher. Rootkin-Gray and his teammate Harry Birchill were 7th and 8th respectively in this last year, so know what it takes to do well in Rutland.
TRINITY Racing has a reputation as one of the finest development teams around. and in Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix victor Luke Lamperti they have a potential race winner. Irishman Dean Harvey is another young rider to watch. Perhaps unfortunate not to win the Rás Mumhan, he was 4th at the Irish road race championships last season and has bags of cyclocross experience, so he should handle the dirt roads well.
ROKiT-SRCT has been the standout elite-level team in the UK so far this season and could spring a surprise. Joe Beckingsale won the Galway Classic last weekend, Ireland’s equivalent of the CiCLE Classic, while Will Truelove was the victor at the PB Performance Espoirs road race on Sunday.
It is perhaps two composite teams that offer the strongest threat to the UCI teams. The BC East Midlands team houses AT85 Pro Cycling victims Toby Barnes and Sam Culverwell, who have both now signed with the Dolan Ellesse race team. Barnes is a cyclocross specialist who has a stage race win at the Peaks 2 Day and a victory at the Danum Trophy on his palmares already this year. Culverwell has had a quieter season so far but we rate the former TRINITY Racing rider and he suits this type of race. On the BC North West team, meanwhile, is another former AT85 rider, Josh Whitehead, who recently bagged a podium on his debut for his new team Cross Team Legendre.
Finally, look out for Ollie Peckover (trainSharp Elite). He has been the standout rider of the domestic road racing scene so far this year, winning three National B races already. He was in the break last year when riding for Ribble Wedltite Pro Cycling and has made this race an early season target. So if you are looking for an underdog to back, then Peckover could well be your man.
Predictions. We like to stick our necks out with a prediction or two when previewing the UK’s biggest races. Jacob Scott was a nearly man in the last two editions of the race, and we expect another strong ride. If not, teammate Rory Townsend is the perfect foil.
Official start: 11.00. Expected finish: 15.40.
How to follow
The CiCLE Classic Twitter account normally provides regular race updates. Joe Hudson will be there on the ground for us too, so keep an eye on our Instagram stories for updates and video content from him.