Sunday, 29 April 2012

Rutland - Melton International Cicle Classic: Move Over Paris-Roubaix.

When race organiser Colin Clews said eight years ago that he wanted to create a British Race to rival Paris-Roubaix there were plenty who sniggered at the thought. Today's Rutland-Melton Cicle Classic, however, did exactly that in spectacular style. 162 riders started, 22 finished. As a local boy I couldn't miss the opportunity to witness this race first hand...

The route was specifically designed to stand up to the spring classics. It features punchy climbs and the 'Somerberg' farm track in undulating Rutland and Melton countryside in the north east of Leicestershire. It is the only UCI rated single day race in the British Calendar, second in stature only to the Tour of Britain. Featuring 34 teams, 162 riders and over 20 different nationalities this race isn't to be sniffed at. This years edition saw teams from as far afield as South America and North Africa line up at the start.

Vile Weather Conditions Made The Race Very Difficult
Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders missed a vital element this year. The weather. There were no wet cobbles, riders soaked to the bone, head to toe in mud. Today's Cicle Classic had all of that, in bucket loads. The wind was gale force, the rain torrential - factoring in the windchill it was -2 out on the course. Riders talked of attacking to stay warm, in fact James McCallum (Rapha Condor Sharp) who finished second said that the conditions 'were the worst I have ever ridden in' he quickly added 'and I'm from Scotland'. He was visibly shivering on the podium.

I was stood on the KOM section in Burrough-On-The-Hill as the riders tackled the climb into a tremendous headwind. The above picture doesn't really convey the weather as it was but the water was running down the slope in small waves and I was pretty surprised everybody got up in one piece. You can see some better pictures than my mobile efforts over at VeloUK HERE 

A Mud Covered Russ Downing
Joins his Team-Mates on the Podium
 Half of the riders had abandoned or were withdrawn (due to time constraints) from the race before even the mid-way point. Only 22 riders actually finished the race, with Frenchman Alex Blain (Endura) taking victory with a solo attack finishing 2 minutes ahead of Canadian Jamie Sparling (Raleigh) and third placed James McCallum (Rapha) who punctured with 2km to go on what he described as 'the first bit of smooth tarmac Ive ridden on all day'. The course itself was due to be its longest ever at 183km, but due to a late start and floods (isn't there a drought on?) the course was shortened to just under the length of last years edition. The remaining 12 or so riders rolled in in dribs and drabs over the following 15 minutes, all of them black with mud from head to toe, including the familiar sights of Wouter Sybrandy (IG Sigma Sport) Magnus Backstedt (UK Youth), Yanto Barker (UK Youth) and Ex Sky rider Russ Downing (Endura).

Indeed Endura continue their dominance thanks to winner Alex Blain and they also won the Team Award, with 3 finishers, Blain, Iker Camano and Russ Downing. The team has attacked very early in the day and had been on the front controlling the race right to the finish.

I think the race had it all, Climbs, Wind, Rain, Mud - it was the perfect 'Spring Classic' and if it ever managed to work its way onto a TV schedule somewhere, it would definitely be an entertaining race to watch. The fact that only 5% of the riders finished tell's most of the story in itself. Second Placed Jamie Sparling said it is 'definitely a race for hardmen'. I certainly wouldn't disagree. Move over Paris-Roubaix, theres a new classic in town.

Heres the final standings:

1. Alex Blain, Endura Racing 4.36.33
2. Jamie Sparling, Raleigh GAC @ 1.59
3. James McCallum, Rapha Condor Sharp @ 3 seconds
4. Tobias Erler, Weiss @2.39
5. Yanto Barker, UK Youth @ 2.57
6. Pete Williams, Node 4 Giordana Subaru @4.40
7. Wouter Sybrandy, IG Sigma Sport @ 5.30
8. Iker Camano Endura Racing @st
9. Stephen Adams, Cycle Premier Kovert @7.19
10. Robert Smail, Team Wallis CHH

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up. Sounds like a helluva race; the seeds being sown for another great spring classic.