Thousands of cycling fans and aficionados will hit the borough this weekend as the Rutland–Melton International CiCLE Classic returns.
Leading professional cycling teams from across Europe and beyond, with riders from more than 20 countries, will take the start line on Sunday for the race’s 11th annual edition.
Spectators will be keeping an eye out for Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins. The reigning Olympic time trial champion is under contract to Team Sky until the end of the month so will not ride, but could come along to watch his newly-established Team Wiggins in action.
One Pro Cycling, founded recently by England wicketkeeper Matt Prior, are also in the line-up alongside top British teams Madison-Genesis, Team Raleigh-GAC and JLT-Condor who field 2014 CiCLE Classic winner Tom Moses.
Race director Colin Clews, from Wymondham, said: “Each year we say the event is going to be bigger and better than ever before, and the actuality of this never disappoints.
“This year the interest in the race from sponsors, riders, associated companies, spectators and cycling fans has been greater than ever and the prospects for the races on Sunday are breathtaking.”
The race models itself on the European spring classics, particularly Paris-Roubaix, and thousands of British and continental-based spectators are expected to line the local roads.
It will follow the same 180km course as in 2014 with two major climbs of Cold Overton, four at Burrough-on-the-Hill before a final ascent of Cuckoo Hill 20km from the finish line.
The Classic starts at 11am in Oakham High Street and is expected to reach the Sherrard Street finish line in Melton for the first time at about 3pm. Riders will then begin a final 15km circuit and return to Sherrard Street for the finish about 25 minutes later.
The main showpiece has a strong supporting cast including the Junior CiCLE Classic. The junior version, launched last year, involves the best 17 and 18-year-old cyclists in Britain and also begins in Oakham at 9am on Sunday.
The race finishes in Oakham high Street at about 11.25am after five laps of a circuit around Teigh, Market Overton, Thistleton, and Edmondthorpe.
The greatest challenge to the recent British domination of the CiCLE Classic podium is expected from the top European teams such as An Post-Chain Reaction, ParkHotelNL, the German-based Bike Aid for Africa, new CCT-Champion Systems team, Team Sparta Praha, who enjoyed 15 wins in 2014, and up-and-coming Belgian-based team, Team 3M.
Latvian team Reitumu–Delfin, Team Asea, from Ireland, and ambitious Spanish squad Keith-Mobel-Partizan complete the European challenge.
As well as international interest, this year has attracted more local support with several first-time sponsors.
Melton-based Vortex Watch & Clock Centre sponsor the race timing system, while Ye Olde Porke Pie Shoppe will give a specially commissioned pork pie to the first rider across the finish line on the first passage of the race through Sherrard Street.