A world champion’s pedigree was once again required to claim the top prize at a dramatic Women’s CiCLE Classic on Sunday.
Former world track champion Emily Nelson (RST/Cycle Division RT) proved the strongest of a group of just 21 riders who entered Melton to contest the sprint finish of a difficult fourth edition of the race.
More than 120 riders set out from Melton under sunlit skies, boding well after the heavy rain of the previous two days.
But within 500 metres of the start proper on Sawgate Road, near Burton Lazars, a major crash involving almost 40 riders brought the race to an unexpected halt.
With several riders needing hospital attention, the race remained stationary for an hour-and-a-half.
Some required surgery later that day, but none of the injuries were found to be as serious as first thought and all involved are expected to make a full recovery.
Race director Colin Clews said: “We too often take our sport for granted as containing risk, which anyone involved has to accept.
“We can take all necessary measures to reduce those risks, but ultimately it is down to totally unforeseen circumstances that injuries nevertheless do occur.
“This was just such an incident. Witnesses described the crash as totally innocuous and low speed, and baffling as to why so many injuries occurred.
“It is a reminder to all of the risks that competitors in any sport can face at some time in their careers. We wish all those involved a speedy and full recovery.”
The remaining riders showed their strength of character and resolve by wishing to continue the race as soon as possible.
A revised race then went ahead over a reduced 70km distance instead of the originally planned 105km.
“It is a sign of how far women’s cycle racing has progressed in recent years that the race went on after such an inauspicious and problematic start,” Clews added.
“Following the restart the competitors raced full on, and I’m sure all present on the day will join me in paying tribute to the riders’ professionalism and dedication to their sport.”
Several attempts were made to break clear of the main group, particularly on the three climbs within the race’s Queen of The Bergs competition, but none succeeded.
The race became more of a battle of attrition, but with a sizeable leading group still remaining as they approached the Melton town centre finish line.
Even then, and almost in sight of the finish, four riders misjudged the final corner from Saxby Road into Thorpe End and crashed, ending their chances of joining the sprint which followed.
Rebecca Durrell (Brother UK-Tifosi p/b On Form) looked the favourite, having won the first-ever edition in 2016, and with several big wins already this year under her belt.
She had obviously not bargained for Nelson, riding the race for the first time.
Using her experience on the track rider, she had the speed to strike out early and cross the line one length ahead of Durrell, with Elizabeth Bennett (Campineses-Velo Performance) completing the podium in third place.
Only 49 riders finished the race which again incorporated round three of British Cycling’s Women’s National Road Race Series.
With the removal of the usual finishing circuit from the route, following the crash, Nelson was also awarded the special Melton Town Centre sprint award of a giant pork pie, from sponsors Dickinson and Morris.
* The Junior Men’s race took place earlier in the day over a similar course to the one planned for the women.
It was won by Samuel Watson (Fenshaw Howes-MAS Design), who together with Oliver Stockwell (Team Ribble), went clear of the main group of riders on the final lap of the Owston to Burrough-on-the-Hill circuit.
Despite a frantic chase behind, led by 2018 winner Alfred George (Discovery Junior Cycling Team), the pair stayed clear for nearly 20 kilometres to contest the final sprint, 17 seconds ahead of the peloton.
The events were supported by Melton BID, Duvel Belgian Beer, Schwalbe UK (Tyres) and thanks to major sponsorship from Peter Stanton, a dedicated supporter of Women’s CiCLE sport.
The new Mayor of Melton, Malise Graham, along with managing director of Dickinson and Morris, Stephen Hallam, helped out at the post-race presentation ceremony.