Rutland - Melton CiCLE Classic

Distance: 120 miles/180 km

Starters:  194 riders

Type of race:  A very BIG one!  Official UCI, Off Road Sections (gravel, farm tracks)

 

‘Riding Your Bike but also Riding Your Luck’

This is my biggest race to date.  Ever!  In terms of competitive level, size of field, length of race and prestige.   This is the UK’s answer to the world renown Paris Roubaix.   When I discovered our team had places I crossed everything in hope of getting a spot in the team.

I’m a first year U23 so have never had the chance before and I didn’t get a chance to race the junior equivalent (much shorter) last year.  It clashed with A-level studies and to be honest I’m not sure if I was fit enough or had anything like the skills and robustness required.

We arrived early as we always do for big races and started to co-ordinate warm-ups and how feed zones could be supported by all helpers (including very obliging parents).   Unsurprisingly I was more nervous than the normal adrenalin flow.  I had heard a lot about this race and just how brutal it was – the outcomes were infinite!

Thirty minutes before the start of the race we rolled towards the start line.  There were 193 other riders – gulp!

The pre-race activity had been a little different.   The team had to pose on stage before the start – celebrity status of a sort I suppose, and  I’ll take whatever I can get quite frankly.  

The start was manic with everyone fighting for position.  The first section was two laps of Rutland water, not your average lake?! .  The pace soon went up.  This was the road but we all knew what was to come after the small matter of getting 80km under our wheels – it would be our first section (of many, many) dirt tracks.

Unlike most races, puncture and mechanicals are fortunately a slim outcome and you do feel rightly cheesed off if it happens to you.  The CiCle Classis is different – if this misfortune hasn’t happened to you, you are simply left waiting for it to happen.   You ride your bike but you also ride your luck!

It was the most dramatic race I have been in in terms of incident – a set of forks shattered early on with a rider left hanging over a fence! ..many hands up screaming for team car support.  Wheels on top of neutral and team cars that looked so polished and pumped at the start of the race soon became depleted – a sorry sight!

All four of the team riders got our dose of the ‘CiCle medicine’ – probably more than a reasonable share of bad luck.

James suffered from a double chain drop, one at 70km and was able to put it back on to re-join the race only for the chain to drop again.  Not his day and beyond the recovery of any mortal.

Dave also dropped his chain, recovered but then punctured.  With these incidents, he found himself behind the convoy of support cars with no assistance left to help him re-join.  Time to accept defeat and bow out gracefully.

Max found himself badly positioned going into the first King of the Hills and dropped back on this climb.  He managed to get back on but the next climb was the same.  He used the off-road sections to battle back on multiple times until ‘I just blew up chasing on for one too many times’ .

As a team we had around 7 punctures/mechanicals.  And get this, our team car had a puncture also!   Madness.

As for me, I punctured twice in the race.  The first was about 80 miles in just as the pace was raised which was a real pain, meaning I was left riding on my own.  I passed some riders and tried to get a group to form, but I got negative responses from those who had simply given up.   I wasn’t to be dissuaded from my gritted goal of at least finishing.  I had to stay within a time distance of the leaders to get that chance.

I did get a group going eventually with some other riders.  But I punctured again.  This time however Jason and the team car were close on hand to change it and get me back into the group.   Slick.

The race organisers had a last cut-off opportunity at 112 miles (with just 8 miles to go). As we made our approach into Melton Mowbray there was nervousness in the group.   Nobody wanted to get pulled out this close to the end.  We made it onto the last lap before the cut-off - we had made it! , at least, ‘sort of’.   The pace relaxed for the next 2 miles and people started discussing who had had the worse day.  Gallow’s humour.   One rider had had 3 punctures and had lost his Garmin!

Our group mustard a pathetic sprint to the line on very tired legs but we had done it. I rolled in for 79th of 196 starters.  Just over 5 hours.

I was glad it was over. Sore all over I couldn’t feel my hands or lower back. I just sat on the floor about 150 meters after the finish line. Not really talking.

It has taken two days for the feeling in my hand to fully return!  My legs took until Wednesday to feel the same again.  Mixed feeling from this event, my first UCI and I finished in the top 40%. But I felt luck stood more in my way of a better result.

Thanks to all the team and the support in the car and the roadside.  Commiserations to us all in a way but I do feel (relatively) lucky that I could get to the finish line.  I do feel that this is a race, that if and when I ride again, I will always stand at the start line and consider ‘I wonder what might happen today?!’

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