One of cycling’s most popular UK races returns to our roads on Sunday when the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic hits town.
Last year’s race served up one of the most thrilling finishes in its 13-year history when Dan Fleeman gave Melton’s semi-pro cycling team Metalktek an emotional hometown win.
But Fleeman’s recent retirement makes calling a winner in the notoriously unpredictable Spring classic even tougher than ever as form flies out of the window on the punishing off-road sectors.
Returning as a VIP guest, Fleeman will start the race in Oakham at 11am, meaning the reigning champion’s number one will go to Haydon McCormack (ONEPro Cycling), the Kiwi rider who was runner-up in a controversial finish 12 months ago.
Only one former CiCLE Classic champion will line up in the race – 2014 winner Tom Moses (JLT-Condor), but the race’s only two-time winner, Ian Wilkinson (2009 and 2013) will be there managing the newly-formed St Piran team.
Both McCormack and Moses will be supported by strong teams, with JLT-Condor fielding multi-Olympic team pursuit champion ??? in their squad, while ONEPro include former world points champion Karol Domagalski in their six-man team.
Many of the smaller British teams, such as Spirit-Tifosi, Morvelo-Basso and Ribble Cycles have featured prominently this year, and they, together with
Madison-Genesis and newly-formed Vitus will be looking for a strong showing.
As ever, the foreign challenge will be formidable, and alongside these will be the resurrected Holdsworth-Campagnolo team, from Ireland, who back in the 1970s and 1980s were the dominant team in British cycling.
Former British road race champion Russell Downing heads their challenge.
The Dutch are well represented again as Monkey Town RT and WGP Amsterdam both send strong teams, with riders from the former having already won two semi-classic races at home.
But the biggest foreign contingent comes from France who send three teams.
Aseg-Douai have last year’s experience to guide them, but French Division One squad Cotes D’Amore should pose a major challenge to their UCI Continental rivals.
A Latvian national team, whose professional team Reitumu-Riga Bank have been regular visitors in recent years, completes the compliment of foreign squads, alongside Dare-Gavira and Guerciotti-Kiwi Atlantico.
The local East Midlands Regional team will again sport the name of the Mount Group RDA, the race’s chosen charity, and will stoke local interest, while Wales has entered their academy development squad for the first time.
The RAF Cycling Association team have been given a place against the fully professional teams to commemorate the Armed Service’s centenary.
A true mix of talent from whom only one person, and one team can win; we will find out who in Sherrard Street just before 4pm on Sunday.