Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic - Road Cycling UK

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Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic

The quiet before the storm

Saturday morning. It’s raining. 25s or 23s? I can’t decide. Take both. Take everything. The back of the car is looking like I’ve emptied the house into it. My brother has already started to recce-ride the course and send me a picture text of a muddy lane for some reason. Oh heck, the penny drops, we’ll be riding up that then.

I decided to drive all the technical sections and it’s a good job I did. Making the decision to swap cassettes to lower gears so to be able to ride the muddy bits in the saddle, grip was going to be a big issue on the ‘Somerberg’ as the evening before it was 2 inches deep in mud and muck.

Next morning at the start and it’s still spitting with rain. We line up for speeches and stuff and roll out of Oakham for two laps of Rutland Water. This was the ‘easy bit’ but we’re still chasing gaps and cracking along at a fair old lick. There’s a fair few crashes and bottle necks and staying out of trouble in the first third of the peloton is the idea, in practice it’s not that easy. Attacks are flying about, I’m thinking that’s brave, or stupid, or both. Sit tight and try to look comfortable. So far so good.

Team Rapha Condor group hug

Off the first circuit and I resisted the temptation to chase on my own after the first big split, behind a crash on the first hill and got myself into a steady group, we got back on but the writing was on the wall as the whole peloton was lined out, which looked impressive, but the front of the race was now in a different postcode. So it was the a case of damage limitation and keeping the pace as high as I could. As the front group split we formed a ‘working party’ basically a gruppetto that wanted to keep going and riders kept coming back to us for the final two hours, Kevin Dawson was with us for a while and we passed a lot of crashes, stuck team cars and carnage. Much of the technical sectors were best ridden at speed and most are just rough, not too bad, the odd pot hole to keep you on your toes.

The turning to the Somerberg was firmly etched into my mind and by the time we got there a few team cars had rolled the edges nicely so you could see some hard ground. It’s hard to describe what riding up this muddy track on slick race tyres was like. Random is probably the best word. Once someone started to crash ahead, you were on the brakes and started to slide too. Cyclo-Cross riders had the advantage of being able to slide the bike and not stiffen up, I was a bit out of practice, to say the least.

Owston was just one big party for the spectators, one big hell for the riders

After this we seemed to be lapping Owston for an eternity, but it was the most enjoyable section as the crowd were superb, relentlessly clapping and cheering us through. The smell of food was a bit hard to take, especially as the hunger knock wasn’t too far ahead…

The final pass through the muddy field at Somerby was a bit sketchy and fellow Londoner Sam from London Dynamo took a nasty fall, I took it steady so not to crash, then had to chase again for the final 10 kms as our group had split into bits. We regrouped through the old airfield and then onto Shady Lane! which is a climb up a flinted bridle way, how stupid was that?! a lot of riders flatted here and it’s no surprise. My 25s were working a treat though, which is lucky as my legs were now in knots. I got gapped off the back of the group but those riders going too fast just flatted or slowed near the top, so I managed to get back on over the top and we charged into Melton, dragged in at top speed by chief rouleur Al Tullet. We even put on a bit of a sprint for the crowd. Best thing was we got in before the prize presentation… another mission accomplished. We were all shattered but just delighted to finish.

The muck heap’s at the top

The atmosphere of this race is excellent and the party carries on all around the circuit, I so badly wanted to finish that I used this to best effect and the applause and cheers from the crowd make a massive difference, especially late on when the morale is beginning to falter. It was an amazing race. Now I wish I’d tried to bridge as I finished in a relatively OK state… but then again those that tried (good riders too) paid the price of the fast pace at the front and then blew to pieces and had to pull out, I’m just so chuffed to have finished. It was brutal.

The Rutland to Melton Cicle Classic has a simple premise. It’s a race that is intended to be hard, technical and spectacular, something that British roads can deliver, but few organisers dare to attempt. Apart from a couple of the prettier races like the Tour of the Peak, the Premier Calendar has never been particularly imaginative with the roads and lanes of the UK, and there are some cracking lanes after all. What is clear is that the disruption to traffic is small especially if the locals get behind the race and this is just how racing carries on abroad – local sponsors, pubs and farms have really embraced the idea and it has given the race a heart and it was a great honour to be a part of it. This race addresses this issue head-on. What the organiser, Colin Clews, the marshals, the locals, the local media and even the county council have produced is, perhaps the finest road race the UK has seen for a long time. Like the Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross this is a hidden jewel – we should treasure it.

This bit’s quite dry

a bit muckier here

The road kept going up and down…

Tired legs late on

Busy day for the marshals

Not easy to get any grip


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