Talks have opened with a potential new backer to secure the long-term future of the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic.
The race, which models itself on the Belgian Spring Classics, is hugely popular with riders and teams, and has grown in stature since its inception in 2004.
But during that time, race director Colin Clews, from Wymondham, has had to battle hard to attract sponsors.
The race, which follows a winding course along main roads, country lanes and farm tracks between Oakham and Melton, has a relatively modest £50,000 budget for an event of its size.
There were genuine fears it could fold entirely before major sponsors Giant Store Rutland Water and Schwalbe Tyres came along in recent years.
But ongoing discussions with an undisclosed company could give Mr Clews some long-term breathing space and help the race grow still further.
“We have potentially some very promising news for 2018, working with a company who are very experienced at marketing major races and Continental races and looking to do something with us,” he told the Melton Times.
“The race is relatively secure and it’s fine this year. Next year there could be a problem because of a change of one of our sponsors, but I’m very hopeful with the discussions that I’m having that the race will go from strength to strength.
“We would not be talking a couple of years, they are looking at the long term.”
The race hosted its first official launch event last Thursday in the grand surroundings of Stapleford Park, held jointly with Melton-based Metaltek Kuota cycling team, where new additions to the race route were revealed.
Riders will face two new sectors, Barleyberg – a rutted single lane out of the Rutland village of Barleythorpe – and two passages of Staplepark, a bumpy off-road section through the Stapleford Park estate.
“I’m always looking for new roads and tracks for the event,” Mr Clews explained.
“I had one nearer my home village which didn’t come off, but Lord Gretton gave us the initial okay for Stapleford and then farm manager Dave Matthews, who is a cycling fan, found us a route.
“We believe it will significantly alter the complexion of the race, particularly with the conditions we’re likely to have in April.
“The first sector of narrow lanes at Barleyberg will come just 49km into the race when the main bulk of the 180 riders will still be all together so potentially there could quite an upset.
“The fight will come on the main road before they reach it.”
The Classic gained international status within three years of its inaugural race when it became, at the time, the only single-day race in Britain on the UCI European Tour calendar.
It has featured many big names over the years, including world champions Mark Cavendish in 2007 and Peter Sagan in 2009, and Pro Continental level teams were among the field for the first time in 2016.
This year’s edition, which takes place on Sunday, April 23, has attracted record entries from top teams across the UK and Europe.
But places are still reserved for local regional teams to help up-and-coming riders test themselves against experienced professional riders. “The popularity has been absolutely amazing,” Mr Clews added. “There are 180 places and I’ve had more than 250 entries so it’s been a task to decide which to send back.”