The ‘new ‘ Rutland – Melton weekend takes shape!!
With just three weeks remaining to the 7th edition of the Rutland –Melton International CiCLE Classic on Sunday 17th April, Britain’s only single day international race is set to break new ground in several ways. With new main sponsors TESCO and CNP sports nutrition joining Dolmio (MARS UK), the Classic will form the main course of a menu of cycling activity in and around Rutland and Melton involving nearly 1000 cyclists of all abilities and ages, and expected to bring literally thousands more spectators to the roadside to witness the exciting action.
The weekend commences with the Rutland CiCLE Tour on Saturday 16th April when over 500 cycling enthusiasts take part in several rides over predetermined courses of varying distance using many of the roads that the top professionals will cover the following day. Then on the Sunday morning of the Classic for the first time the Youth CiCLE Classic races for boys and girls under 16 years will take place on closed roads in and around the village of Owston, so long accepted as the ‘heart of the race’ over the past six years. These two new races for experienced youngsters from all over the country, will provide a new and unique opportunity for Britain’s talented up and coming cyclists and will act as selection races for Britain’s team for the forthcoming European Youth Olympics.
But the finale to what is increasingly becoming the Rutland and Melton Cycling festival will be as ever the TESCO International CiCLE Classic, which will feature 33 teams from across Europe and involving professional cyclists from 17 different countries. With returning visiting teams from Denmark, Ireland, the Czech Republic and Belgium, they are joined this year by teams from France and Spain, and a British registered team that nevertheless boasts four Swedish riders, including former Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt who makes a return to the race after an initial attempt on the race in 2009. The race will see three previous winners amongst its line-up; ‘veteran’ Malcolm Elliott winner in 2007, Robin Sharman winner in 2006, but most dangerously runner up in 2009, and then winner in 2010, Michael Berling of Denmark. Berling returns this year wearing No. 1 supported by a strong Glud & Marstrand team who are looking to help him become the first rider to win the CiCLE Classic on two occasions.
Whilst the British teams will be all out to take a win from under the noses of the visitors, with ten foreign teams taking part this year, and with greater quality than ever amongst those teams, they may well find themselves on the back foot once again. Two British based riders with the ability and ambition to win the race however, will be last years runner up, Dan Craven (Rapha-Condor) of Namibia and twice third placed (2009 & 2010)Welshman Yanto Barker of Pendragon Racing Team.
With the French Eseg-Douai team headed by former Tour de France rider David de Roo, and the Spanish KTM-Murcia team fielding Hector Gonzalez, these teams have indicated that they mean business. in particular has already shown his form this year against the world’s best in the early season Tour of the Algarve. On several occasions during that five day race Gonzalez showed last years Tour de France runner up, Andy Shleck of Luxembourg, that he does not respect anyone’s reputation. (See photo)
Belgian riders can never be ruled out when the racing is hard and when the roads are narrow such as those that characterise the CiCLE Classic. New to the race this year will be a team of up and coming Elite riders from the Hand in Hand Club from Baal, a club which can boast among its former riders former World Champion Tom Boonen, and many of the names that have stood on the top step of the podium of the European Spring classic races over the past 15 years.
“ This year demand for places at the CiCLE Classic from teams, both foreign and British, has been greatly increased,” said Race Director Colin Clews. “Over the past three weeks ten additional foreign teams have had to be turned away, which demonstrates the reputation that the event now has in continental circles. However, the ten foreign squads that will ride the event presents the biggest and most intense continental challenge to our home riders. Our aim is to see this lead to improved quality of racing in Britain and amongst our domestic competitors,” continued Clews.