It’s the one-day race Tim Elverson would most like to win with his Canyon Eisberg troops.
The Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic returns for its 14th edition on Sunday (11am) and it is sure to be another thriller.
Sports director Elverson is a long-time admirer of the race and would dearly love one of his squad to get their name on the roll of honour.
That’s no easy task, though, with the mix of road, gravel, dirt and farm tracks providing a tough test for even the most talented and experienced bike handlers.
Punctures are a near-certainty, too, so every team will be hoping for a little bit of luck to get them to the finish line in Melton Mowbray. Elverson said:
“The CiCLE Classic is like nothing else in England. It’s mix of terrain, on and off road, provides a unique spectacle.
“This is probably the single-day race I would most like to win and I have a load of guys who are all capable.
“You can only pick six, though, so I’m hoping I’ve got the blend right. We will need a little bit of luck but I know we can win it.”
Elverson has selected Chris Opie and Harry Tanfield, who were second and third in 2015, and has also called on the experience of Andrew Tennant and Alex Paton.
Tennant and Paton have each ridden the race twice, finishing just outside the top 10 on both occasions.
Matt Nowell, who starred in the break at the Chorley Grand Prix last weekend, gets a second shot at the race after a gruelling day up the road last season.
First-year senior Charles Page completes the Canyon Eisberg squad. He was seventh in the Junior CiCLE Classic in 2017.
The 189km UCI 1.2 race sets out from Oakham and loops around the picturesque Rutland Water before heading for 11 special sectors in and around the villages of Cold Overton and Owston.
Organisers revised the course last season and added in two new sectors, the Barleyberg and Staple Park, with the latter tackled twice at the sharp end of the race.
Here we take a closer look at those off-road sections and the other prizes up for grabs in the 14th Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic.
Introduced last season, it is the first to be ridden. And race organisers have laid on a baptism of fire for peloton, which will arrive at the Barleyberg after 48.2km.
Covering a distance of 1.1km, officials have given the paved farm track five stars in terms of its severity. While it is unlikely to do huge damage, it will be a rude awakening for some.
Rated two stars, this gravelly road is perceived to be the easiest of all sectors, alongside Newbold Manor. It features the feed zone and riders will hit it after 76.5km and it lasts 1.1km.
Well known to seasoned Rutland-Melton watchers, these stone farm tracks are tackled three times with each rated four stars. The first two (86km and 108.2km) last for 700m. The peloton will then race it in reverse after 121km, with the sector stretched to 1.8km.
Possibly the best known of the race’s special sectors, the Somerberg is a brute and understandably rated five stars. It lasts for a total 2.2km and is ridden twice, the first time after 122.2km and the second time, in reverse, at 145.6km. It comprises of a rutted farm track with grass verges on one side of the summit and loose gravel on the other.
Much like its sibling, Newbold, this is billed as the easiest of all the sectors. Rated two stars, the peloton will attempt to blast through its 1.2km length after 136.1km.
New for 2017, organisers were not playing it safe. Passed twice, the first time 28km from the finish and second time just 10.5km out, it lasts for 2.1km and has a difficulty mark of four stars. Riders turn off the road on to a gravel track, over a cattle grid and then on to grass. Expect fireworks.
Another familiar to CiCLE Classic regulars, it’s short but very hard. Another given the maximum difficulty rating, its rutted surface lasts for just 500m and there are no clean lines between the potholes. Its position – just 16.2km from the finish line – is crucial.
KING OF THE BERGS
Once again, a King of the Bergs will be crowned on Sunday. Points will be awarded on six climbs during the race. The first four riders to crest those bergs will be given five, three, two and one point respectively. The featured climbs are Cold Overton Berg at 60.2km and 116.1km, Burrough Berg after 77.1km and 127.1km, Melton Lane at 101.6km and Cuckoo Berg, which completes the set at 157.4km
Spot prizes will be awarded for five intermediate sprints, too. The first, worth £50 to the winner, comes after 45.8km when the leaders cross the start line in reverse. Next comes the first of three in the village of Owston and will see the winner handed his bodyweight in beer. This was won by Rory Townsend in 2016. The following two sprints, also in Owston, are worth £50 to the first rider across the line. Finally, the first passage of the finish line in Melton Mowbray, which comes after 170.8km, carries with it a giant pork pie. Alex Paton clinched this on his way to 12th place in 2015.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
Rory Townsend finished fourth last season. According to his data, he was in the saddle for 4hrs 44min and burned through 5,124 calories.
The 22-year-old, from Addlestone in Surrey, averaged 40.8kmh (25.4mph) at a cadence of 72rpm and climbed 2,460m (8.071ft).
Narrowly beaten in the sprint for the podium by JLT Condor’s Brenton Jones, his average power was 270w with a maximum of 1,264w.
Click here to check out Rory’s full ride on Strava.
The Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic, which was won last season by Metaltek-Kuota’s Dan Fleeman, gets under way at 11am.
You can follow the race on the Canyon Eisberg Twitter feed. Alternatively, updates will be provided on the official race Twitter account @CiCLEClassic