The Rutland CiCLE Classic is the UK’s spring classic, and whilst not attracting the heavy hitters of the World Tour, it retains a cult following and legendary status attracting teams from across the UCI’s European Tour. 189km of mixed surfaces from road to tracks to farmyards in the stunning Rutland scenery makes for a highly photogenic and extremely challenging bike race.
Riders are keen to take on the racing from the front, the selection is made by a combination of bike handling skills and good fortune, not to mention some serious power when it counts.
The winners’ list includes thoroughbred racers known worldwide, including Malcolm Elliot, Conor Dunne and Zak Dempster.
With all this in mind we, the Bristol GP, took a trip to see how things are done at an international level.
Colin Clews the founder and race director is a man of vision who is clearly also a man of influence in the local community. The race is embraced by the region and supported by a pantheon of local sponsors.
The accessibility to the stars of racing with the open and friendly environment of the race HQ brings together both the glamour and the nerves of professional sport in a way that no other sport can match. Our pit walk included sightings of Tim the DS of Canyon Eisberg and a long-time supporter of the Bristol GP, Tom Pidcock, the Team Wiggins star and a host of other well-known names.
Once we had ceased being star struck we set off to enjoy the start of the race in the heart of the village of Oakham.
Two laps of the reservoir at Rutland Water seemed to us like a thankless and windy task as a prelude to the twisty lanes and off road sections to come. After lap one the group appeared relaxed, but lap two saw a group of four break clear and notch up a good gap by the time they returned through Oakham to enter the second section of the course.
For the second section we found, with some guidance, a key spectator point in Owston where crowds had gathered and the commentator was calling the race from the back of a low loader. The atmosphere was almost village fete-like with a dash of racing glamour thrown in.
Unlike so many races where the race flashes by and is gone, this was a hot spot for multiple laps both on and off road and in both directions. Added to this the race pops up at all sorts of road crossings and junctions, hidden in the dips and valleys of the Rutland hills. All of which enhances the air of a desperate melee, like a medieval football match surging to and fro between villages.
Emerging dusty and battered from the hills to the pork pie famous Melton Mowbray finish line, Gabriel Cullaigh of Team Wiggins led in an international podium including Karol Domagalski of One Pro Cycling and Dutch rider Koos Jeroen Kers.
Envisaging, organising and managing a race of this nature requires a military eye for timings and logistics and nerves of steel. The reward is happy riders, happy spectators and a race that has to be experienced to be believed. What better goals could a race organiser possibly have?
Lead image by Dan Roizer