Melton’s own professional cycling team is hoping to give the big boys another bloody nose at Sunday’s Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic.
Competition is expected to be fiercer than ever with one of the strongest fields assembled in the race’s 11-year history.
The budget of Melton-based SportGrub Kuota is just a fraction of the race favourites, but team director Andy Swain believes local knowledge will again give his team an edge.
He said: “I think the UK teams will be the strongest, not necessarily on paper because there are some really strong foreign teams, but because of the way the race develops.
“Riders aim to get out in front early to get to the sectors first, especially the first bit of single track from Northfield Farm to Cold Overton.
“The pace from the start is really high while a lot of the foreign teams will want to ride themselves into it.
“Some of them don’t know what to expect and I think that’s why a lot of British teams come to the fore.”
Dan Fleeman leads a six-rider squad – numbered 61 to 66 – which consists of Will Bjergfelt, Gary Hand, Adam Kenway, Ben Stockdale and up-and-coming Oakham rider Ollie Maxwell.
The 18-year-old is in his first senior season, but finished second at the inaugural Junior CiCLE Classic last year.
“Ollie will know the course as well as anyone,” Swain added, “It will be his first race over this kind of distance, but he definitely has the speed and bike handling to get up there early on.
“It really helps if riders know what’s coming so you can judge your efforts and take a bit of a rest where you can. The climbs around Owston and Burrough are brutal.”
The rest of the squad has plenty of experience of the challenging 180km course with Bjergfelt finishing fifth in the notorious 2012 race.
Race captain Fleeman also has two top 10 finishes on his CV, and Stockdale was 27th last year.
This year’s Continental challenge, headed by the Belgium’s Team 3M, is particularly potent, while traditional UK powerhouses, such as Madison-Genesis and Raleigh, are joined by Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins’ new team which is also expected to feature prominently.
But Swain is optimistic of another finish in the team standings to match last year’s high of sixth.
“There are 35 teams in it this year so hopefully we are looking for the top eight again,” he said.
“It has taken us a little while to get there this season because of injury and illness, but this race has come along at a good time.
“You can’t pin too much on it because so much can go wrong in a race like this, but I’m quietly optimistic. We will have lads in the mix.”