One of the most eagerly-anticipated events of the local sports calendar hoves into view on Sunday as the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic returns to our roads.
A field of 180 riders from more than 20 nations and 38 teams will set off from Oakham town centre at 11am to tackle 189km of challenging rural terrain.
A much reduced field will be expected in Sherrard Street around five hours later when Britain’s longest-running single-day international road race reaches its conclusion.
The route for the race’s 13th edition features an extra 10km, most of which will be on farm tracks and unmade roads.
As well as the honour of joining an illustrious list of winners, the riders will be battling for a £2,000 first prize as well as valuable world ranking points.
This year’s Classic – only one of five races in Britain recognised on the international race calendar – will also welcome its first African rider from Eritrea where cycling is a major sport.
“Every year we say this will be the best edition of the race to date,” said race director Colin Clews, from Wymondham. “The riders and the effort they put in trying to win the race surprises even ourselves, and always surpasses all that has gone before.
“This year will undoubtedly be no exception to that. The quality of the field is excellent.”
The race is billed as Britain’s answer to the iconic northern European Spring Classic races, such as Paris-Roubaix, and draws legions of cycling fans from across the country.
As the first international race in Britain this year, many of the teams entered will be looking to lay down a marker, particularly Team Wiggins whose entry was rejected for the upcoming Tour of Yorkshire.
The teams will be presented to the crowd in Oakham High Street before the start when free programmes and giveaways will be available.
And once out on the course, riders will face various hill, and sprint hot spots.
One of the most keenly-fought prizes comes after 86km in Owston, the race’s traditional heartland, where the first rider will win his own weight in Grainstore Brewery beer.
The final spot prize will be a giant Dickinson and Morris pork pie for the first rider to cross the finish line in Melton when the field begins one lap of a 17km finishing circuit,
Riders will again face 11 special sectors, but with several old sectors having been upgraded to normal roads following repairs, riders will face new challenges at Barleyberg and StaplePark (Stapleford Park) which add almost 4km to the total distance.
The team competition, for the squad with the highest-placed three riders, is sponsored by Melton Building Society, while Melton BID sponsors the finish where an Italian Fair will be held in Melton Market Place earlier in the day,
The main race sponsors are Giant Store (Rutland Water), Schwalbe tyres UK, and dare2b clothing.