On the 27th of April the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic will snake its way around 179km of Rutland Countryside. Starting in Oakham the course breezes past our Rutland Giant shop, takes in five 'Bergs' whilst passing in and around Owston, challenging riders with less than smooth riding surface and eventually terminates at Melton Mowbray. The race which is our first year as co-sponsor has gathered a growing following and this year a record number of spectators will line the country lanes and tracks to watch riders from thirty four teams vie for first place.
The race has been billed as 'Britain's Belgian Classic' thanks to the punchy climbs and a route that takes in farm tracks and gravel alongside smooth(ish) Tarmac. The race is anything but dull; its route delivers a tactical headache for teams and individual riders alike. It's not a climber's race, nor a sprinter's. It's a Rouleur's.
With an emphasis on cycle racing disciplines much greater now, riders seem be targeting sprinting, TT riding or climbing as 'their' speciality. To be a Rouleur means to be a Jack of all trades, a chancer who can turn their hand to anything whilst relying on grit and guile to make up the shortfall, to take advantage of an opportunity that suddenly passes their way when a rival falls. Canny, acting on impulse and capable without a sprint train or being protected on hills, they are dogs that get their day... or two. Cancellara, Sagan, Gilbert and Voigt are all in the Rouleur hall of fame.
So who is going to win? The race is in its tenth edition this year and has attracted a growing interest from riders from warmer climes such is its increased standing in the racing calendar. Continental riders have began to covert the prize and let's be honest, if there's one cycling nation that the world would like to take down a peg it's Great Britain. The history books are written in favor of home riders however with five out of the nine races having British winners. Scott Gamble, Robin Sharman and Malcolm Elliot have seen off all others to the finish line with Ian Wilkinson doing it twice! Can he do it for a third? As the first winner, Gamble said;
It's one of these open, hard to predict races. Once on the off-road sections, it's the luck of the draw. You need good form and no bad luck.
...and if there's any animal that embodies the tough, rolling, hardy Rouleur with eyes on the finishing line and a gruffly whispered prayer from a grimaced face then surely it's the Bulldog.
For the weekend of the event Rutland Cycling is hosting a series of very special rides. The Four sportives will be running on the 26th for differing abilities will be organised in association with ITP events. More information and entry can be found here