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Rutland Melton International CiCLE Classic

Britain's Belgian Classic!

The Rutland–Melton International CiCLE Classic is one of only two UCI 1.2 events in the United Kingdom in 2015. Described as the “hardest one-day road race in the country” this year's race ensured its fierce reputation was justified and deserved. Read more to find out why.

Starting out in the sleepy town of Oakham the race completes two laps of Rutland Water before weaving its way around the lanes of Leicestershire and finishing in Melton Mowbray, 180 Km later.  Although this sounds like a nice leisurely Sunday ride, the 11 gravel sectors and punishing bergs (short, sharp ascents) make this a great early season opportunity to test the riders legs and equipment.

This year there were 177 riders from 34 teams that made it the start line. Household names like Tom Moses, Ed Clancey and Steele Van Hoff from teams like Wiggins, JLT-Condor, Madison Genesis and NFTO took place along side our very own team, Zappi’s Pro Cycling

This was Zappi’s Pro Cycling’s U23 first race in the UK of 2015, although, when I arrived at the Race HQ you would not have thought it. They four riders (James Newey, Callum Ferguson, James Locker and Scott Auld) were remarkably relaxed as they made their final preparations to get to the start line. In fact, I was probably more nervous riding shotgun in the team car than the guys were.

I have a great affinity for the teams Director Sportif, Flavio Zappi, an Italian former professional cyclist, he once wore the green jersey in the Giro d' Italia and I can honestly say it is rare I have met someone with such an undeniable passion and ambition for cycling. His single-mindedness and relentless drive to succeed is why Planet X sponsored the team in the first instance and his excitement on the day was contagious.

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We arrived at the start line and as I scurried to find a toilet (four hours is a long time to go without) Zappi set about filming one of his many short video updates for the day, the atmosphere was one of general excitement but I was disappointed to learn we had been given the convoy number 28, putting us somewhere near the back of the convoy meaning that supporting the riders on the day would be very difficult.

The race set off through the town, it was obvious there was a real passion lining the roads and crowds cheered as the convoy beeped their horns and the riders raced past.

The first lap of the race was fast, with an average speed of 48 Km/ph, apart from a crash almost immediately after the race was denaturalized the group seemed to stay together with no problems. Only a few riders were dropping off the back and through the convoy. The race radio was quite with only one or two request for service coming over. 

Lap two seemed to change things up a bit and radio chatter of a "lively peloton” kept us informed of early breakaway attempts being brought back and lots of attacks off the front. The pace was increasing as the Chief Commissar kept pushing the lead vehicles on to make way for the ensuing riders.

After the first two laps the riders set off on a different race entirely, bidding farewell to the rolling, wide roads of the reservoir and saying hello to the lanes that gave this race is reputation as Britain's answer to Paris-Roubaix. 

The first obstacle for the riders to contend with on the narrower roads was "Cold Overton Berg", a climb that averaged 5% and took only 1 minute to push over forced the group to string out but… 

The race dynamic changed instantly once the riders hit the first sector of gravel - A narrow gravel road with large potholes and a line of grass down the middle, this innocent country lane took the first casualties of the day. The radio came alive with calls for service as riders punctured and equipment failed on the harsh conditions. The pace stayed high and riders with no mechanical problems also started to drop through the convoy as their legs gave up.

This theme continued, the race organisers had done an amazing job of setting a course that tested the bikes and riders, it would ensure any imposter would be found out, and as the day progressed the leading group made its way through enthusiastic crowds and farmyards as it dwindled down in size. 

Sector after sector of gravel road, punishing climbs and a searing pace took its toll on the group. Zappi's Pro Cycling, having started with only a team of four still had three riders in the lead group. I was developing a real sense of pride for what was unfolding as the race told it’s story. Teams with busses, big budgets and bigger ego’s were still in with a shot, but so were Zappi's lads! 

Smashing it up with riders I admired, revered and respected was our under 23’s team, I was full of admiration for the guys as the radio announced the group were hitting “Sawgate", the toughest and final sector of gravel and were altogether. 

Once we got on the final sector the team car was being held up by a neutral service car on the left-hand side of the gravel, I had a sense that something wasn't quite right and as we passed I reported the news to the DS that it was Scott Auld, one of the team, he had a double puncture and was being assisted to get him back underway. I looked at Flavio with an “I’m sorry" look on my face, but he just responded with “that’s racing”. We had no choice to push on and support the remaining riders.

As we came into the final few kilometers in team car we could hear on the radio that Steele Van Hoff from NFTO had just won in a sprint and Chris Oppie from One Cycling had finished in second, we didn’t know what had happened to the last two Zappi’s riders and as we pulled off the road we set about finding them.

After a debrief I found out that when Scott punctured the team was together and before hitting the gravel had been discussing the best way to attack the final few kilometers, the plan was for Scott and Callum to put something together for James Newey to have a go in the closing stages. But it wasn't to be.

I was still full of admiration for the guys, their first race of 2015 in the UK, a UCI 1.2, the hardest one day race in the country against some of the biggest names and they had performed incredibly well, against the teams with the big sponsors, big budgets, and support with a reasonable place in the convoy.

I asked the guys about the performance of the bikes, the Planet X RT-90 and they were full of praise for them, especially after the punishment that had been dished out to them on such a grueling day.

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30 April 2015