The 15th edition of the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic on Sunday produced a dramatic photo finish.
In n a pulsating bunch sprint,it was American Colin Joyce (Rally-UHC Cycling) who edged home by the narrowest of margins to claim first place.
The 24-year-old pipped last year’s winner Gabz Cullaigh (Team Wiggins LeCol) to win the 2019 crown.
Rory Townsend, of Canyon DHB Bloor Homes, came in third.
Before the thrilling climax to the race, which had 10 foreign based teams, Britain’s six UCI Conti teams and 19 British squad teams, most of the action had seen the peloton working hard to chase down a three man breakaway.
For three quarters of the race Wim Kliemand, from the Dutch team Monkey Town, Josh Horsley (Team PB Performance) and Matthew Nowell (Saint Piran) set the pace and at one point held an eight minutes advantage over the chasing pack.
Charlie Quarterman, from Zappi-Holdsworth, made several solo attacks off the front of the peloton to try and close the gap to the leading trio and he managed to get within a couple of minutes of the breakaway before being eventually swallowed up by the chasing peloton.
All the hard work of the small breakaway group of three ultimately came to nothing as the peloton gradually hauled them in with a certain sense of inevitability. Tired legs began to kick in and the breakaway three became two, with Josh Horsley dropping back.
The peloton, biding their time and never panicking, caught the leading pair just over the brow of Cuckoo Hill heading towards the Stapleford Park section of the race.
A number of riders suffered punctures as they tackled Sawgate and with 10km of the 218km course remaining Connor Swift led what was left of the peloton.
As the race approached Melton, the sprinters began to move towards the front in readiness for the final, frenzied finish.
Coming in to Melton for the first pass, the head of the peloton was Martin Pluto of Monkey Town, who at that point won the coveted Dickinson and Morris Melton Mowbray Special Pork Pie Award.
With more than 40 riders in the bunch sprint, 2018 winner Gabz Cullaigh looked set to triumph again before Joyce sped by to snatch victory in a sensational finish.
The loss of the individual title was disappointing for Cullaigh’s Team Wiggins Le Col team but they at least had the consolation of winning the event’s team award.
The US based Rally-UHC squad, a UCI Pro Continental team, one level higher than all other teams in this year’s race, made the final move that mattered.
Before coming to CiCLE Classic, Rally-UHC had swept all before them in winning last year’s UCI America’s Tour competition. And this year they competed against the world’s best at events such as the Tour of Oman and the Presidential Tour in Turkey.
Before coming to CiCLE Classic they contested the Fleche Walloone World Tour race in Belgium just a few days before the Melton event, and in a few days time they will take to the UK roads again in the Tour de Yorkshire.
The winner of the King of the Bergs was in the breakaway all day and went to Matthew Nowell (Saint Piran), while Dutchman Wim Kleiman from Monkey Town won his weight in beer with the Owston Special Grainstore Beer Award. Lanterne Rouge went to Peter Cocker (Richardson’s-Trek RT).
The new circuit, taking in the favourite cycling area of Wymondham, was full of spectators many of whom had arrived on bikes to see the very spectator friendly course which criss-crossed Rutland and Melton with on and off-road special sectors.
The East Midlands team sponsored by Melton and Oakham’s Pearces Jewellers boasted two ex National Road race champions in Russell Downing and Colin Sturgess, the oldest man in the race.
The CiCLE Classic was round two of the Tour of Britain qualification process for the six British UCI Continental teams.