Spectators packed Sherrard Street to witness the biggest sprint finish in the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic’s 11-year history on Sunday.
Steele Von Hoff battled back from dead last to become the race’s second Australian winner, heading a 27-strong group who served up a frantic finale in Melton.
The NFTO Pro Cycling rider found himself last when his chainring exploded during the early stages of a high-speed race.
Riders – as well as thousands of spectators on route – took advantage of the dry, firm conditions to reach the line almost 10 minutes ahead of schedule as thousands.
Bizarrely, Van Hoff crossed the line thinking he had won the sprint for fifth place rather than the podium’s top step.
He told Cycling Weekly: “It was a real surprise because I thought there were four other riders away up the road.
“I thought there was a group that went earlier.
“I thought they were a long way off and we had no chance of catching up so I honestly thought we were sprinting for fifth.”
Aggressive riding and support from his team mates saw the 27-year-old move back into contention.
As the race reached the finishing circuit in Melton, Von Hoff believed the four escapees had opened up an unassailable lead.
But the quartet, including Ian Bibby, had been reeled back, leaving Von Hoff and One Pro Cycling’s Chris Opie, who had also battled back from a puncture in the last few miles, at the front.
Von Hoff took his second win of the season from Opie who finished a fraction ahead of JLT Condor’s Harry Tanfield.
New Zealander Aaron Gate (AnPost-Chain Reaction) was fourth, and two-time Classic winner Ian Wilkinson (Raleigh GAC) was fifth.
Of the 83 riders to reach the finish line, Melton-based team SportGrub Kuota again did superbly, with two riders in the top 20.
Will Bjergfelt came home in eighth, his second top 10 finish at the Classic in three years, while 18-year-old Ollie Maxwell rode superbly to place 17th, both classified with the same time as the winner.
Road captain Dan Fleeman was only 22 seconds back in 35th, and Adam Kenway crossed the line four minutes and 23 seconds behind Von Hoff in 55th.
Polish rider Karol Domagalski (Team Raleigh) won the King of the Bergs prize for amassing the most points on the climbs around Burrough on the Hill and Cold Overton.
Tom Stewart (Madison-Genesis) won his weight in Grainstore beer as the first rider under the banner on the first circuit of Owston, while Alex Paton (Pedal Heaven) won a specially-commissioned pork pie from sponsors Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe as the first rider across the finish line on the first circuit of Melton.
The team prize went to the Continent as Dutch outfit Parkhotel Valkenburg took home the team prize.
Earlier in the day, Nathan Draper (RST RT) won the Junior CiCLEClassic.
The Isle of Man rider took his chance to escape what was left of the field with 5km left and managed to hang on to cross the line two bike lengths ahead of Joe Holt and Joe Fry.