At the end of its longest-ever edition, Ireland’s Conor Dunne crossed the line alone to take the biggest win of his career.
The tallest man in the race at 6ft 8ins, Dunne’s height proved no handicap in the windy and cold conditions after managing to distance a large group of almost 30 riders which came together on the finishing circuit in and around Melton.
Earlier in the day, the race had been halted for the first time in its history following a crash on the first lap of Rutland Water while the field sped along at 52kmph.
The two riders were taken by air ambulance to Peterborough, where they were subsequently discharged, and the race was back on after a 20-minute wait. The Oakham Wines town sprint awaited the riders before the first climb of the day at Cold Overton and the first entry of Owston where another large crowd awaited the riders’ arrival.
At this stage Rory Townsend, of Britain’s newest UCI-registered team, Pedal Heaven, took a lone lead which netted him two first places in the King of the Hills competition and his own weight in beer at a special Hot Spot sprint in Owston, courtesy of Grainstore Brewery.
Havign held a lead of more than a minute, the chasing pack finally decided to reel him in and begin the real race.
The race pack became elastic as various groups splintered off the front and rear, only to regroup again as it began to look as though the largest bunch ever would enter Melton.
With just one lap to go, having entered the finishing circuit at Stapleford, more than 50 riders remained in contention.
But shortly after, Tom Stewart (Madison–Genesis) took the sprint award on the finish line in Melton to win a huge pork pie prize, courtesy of Dickinson and Morris.
The entry to the final rough road sector at Sawgate Lane lit the touch paper to a grand race finale.
At the head of affairs Russell Downing, a former British national champion, attacked hard and went clear with Stewart, Ryan Perry of the Melton-based Metaltek-Kuota squad, and Peter Williams (ONE Pro) cycling team.
But after five kilometres of freedom, even this strong combination was unable to stay away. But Downing had softened up the group with the attack, allowing his JLT-Condor team-mate Dunne to make a small break which he held to the line.
Madison-Genesis rider Gruffudd Lewis also gained a short distance on the bunch approaching Melton and held on for second, while Chris Lawless (JLT-Condor) took the sprint for third, helping his team take the Melton Building Society Top Team award.
Again the threat from the overseas teams evaporated on the Classic’s notoriously challenging terrain, as did the expected domination by the ONE Pro squad who had been competing abroad all year and at a considerably higher level than the other British teams.
Race director Colin Clews, from Wymondham, said: “No-one can say that the CiCLE Classic is not now part of the national as well as the local sporting scene.”
The race received substantial backing from Dare2b clothing, who sponsored the previous day’s Dare2b Rutland CiCLE Tour which saw more than 1,400 leisure riders take to local roads.
There was also supporting sponsorship from Schwalbe (UK) and the Giant Store (Rutland Water).
This year there will be a second helping with the staging of the first Women’s CiCLE Classic starting and finishing in Melton on Sunday, July 17.