CiCLE Classic Preview

One of the toughest women’s cycling events anywhere in the world, the CiCLE Classic features several technical off-road sections

This Sunday will see the third edition of the CiCLE Classic Women’s Road Race and the second since its elevation to an HSBC UK Women’s National Road Series race. The race is based on the highly successful UCI 1.2 men’s race and includes all the key challenges of the off-road sectors, but excludes the two loops of Rutland Water for a total race distance 105km. With an entry at the time of writing standing at 118 riders and an eagerness from all the riders Neutral Service has spoken to in the run up to the race, no-shows will be minimal and a three figure start list seems guaranteed – writes Simon Blackwell.

Please note that the numbering may change in order to accommodate the Drops team

The puncture and mechanical risks of the off-road sectors, combined with a tight and enforced broomwagon policy whereby any rider falling ten minutes behind the race will be withdrawn, means a highly attritional race can be expected: last year, only forty rides finished from a starting peloton of one hundred and one. With cloudy but dry skies and a predicted temperature of 21 degrees centigrade the race will be run in humid and dusty conditions.

The Course
Starting in the Market Square in Melton, the riders head out on to the course for what appears to be a relatively straightforward road race. At 15km Owston village, the hub of the race, makes its first appearance with the 1km Newbold off-road sector before the riders head out to Borrough-on-the-Hill for the first Queen of the Hills showdown. After looping round back toward Owston, the race takes in the Manorberg off-road sector, starting with Manor Farm yard before taking the rough track through the tunnel of trees to the loose gravel that makes up the ever tightening ‘Duvel Corner’, where being on the inside can be advantageous and avoids being pushed out towards the barriers.

Riders who know how to carry out rapid roadside repairs have a definite advantage on a course such as this where mechanicals are common!

After re-joining the road, the riders will head out of Owston for the second Queen of the Hills challenge at Cold Overton and then onto the iconic Somerberg climb and descent with its 2km mix of grass/earth track and gravel. Heading back into Owston the Manorberg sector is tackled in the reverse direction exiting through the farmyard back on to the gravel and out of the village to the Borrough-on-the-Hill loop for a second and third time.

The final pass of Owston village takes in the 1.2km Newbold Manor sector before the riders head to the reverse passage of the Somerberg at two-thirds race distance, then get their final chance to take Queen of the Hills points on Cuckoo Hill.  From this point the run-in to Melton commences, heading through Stapleford for the first time, then to Melton with its tight and narrow turns, passing the finish line for the penultimate time and up onto Burton Lazars and the final short Sawgate off-road sector, before completing the Stapleford loop and the run back in to Melton for the finish on Sherrards Street.

Spectators have a wide choice of viewing options: stay in Melton and watch the start and finish or, as Neutral Service would recommend, head to Owston for a number of the off-road sectors with the prime viewing location at the junction of Main Street and Cox’s Lane.  If you have a bike handy after the riders head out on the loop around Borrough-on-the-Hill for the second time you can to head up to the Somerberg for the second passage. Car parking is normally available at the edge of the village, but the field is not recommended for cars with a low-slung suspension. (Map at the bottom of the page)

The Contenders
Predicting the winner of a road race can be tricky as the best of times, but in a race of this nature with its off-road sectors and prevalence of punctures and mechanicals, luck – or rather the avoidance of bad luck – will play a part. Those with a strong team around them both in and out of the saddle will be at a distinct advantage. Unfortunately 2017 winner Katie Archibald (WiggleHigh5) has already had her share of misfortune and is unable to defend her title after a crash whilst navigating the roads of Yorkshire.

Nikki Juniper, seen here at the Lincoln GP, will be out to win

Heading up the start list are Storey Racing, who as always, will be able to field a strong team including winner of the Lincoln Grand Prix and current Women’s Road Series leader Rebecca Durrell. Another strong team will be Cycle Team OnForm, who are able to call on the talents of Anna Henderson – probably one of the most consistent riders in terms of podium finishes on this year’s domestic scene. With consecutive wins in the Tour Series in the week leading up to the CiCLE, Henderson appears to have got back the legs that saw her take the Dave Peck Memorial Race and a second in the Lincoln Grand Prix, amongst an array of wins and places this year.

The final member of the Lincoln podium, Nikki Juniper has made a strong start to the road and criterium season with her new team NJC-Biemme-Echelon. Currently Eisberg Sprints leader in the Tour Series and winner of the recent Coalville Wheelers Road Race over a similar distance, Juniper has put behind her the injury issues that followed her crash at the Tour of the Wolds last year and will be looking to improve on her third place last year.

Grace Garner’s a contender even without team support

As has been said this race can be a tricky for a rider without team support and Grace Garner (WiggleHigh5) had her share of misfortune last year (and, after the race, was open about her frustration), but despite the fact that her team mate and last year’s winner Archibald will be unable to join her, an in-form and mechanical free Garner must be considered a contender. 2017 runner-up Laura Massey will line up for the Brother-Torelli along with Alice Sharp, who was sixth in Lincoln. With a strong team on and off the road there may be an opportunity for one of them to make the Podium.

Finally, late entrants Trek-Drops will have a team of five riders including Lincoln seventh placer Manon Lloyd. They will undoubtedly have a plan and will be well-organised on the road; therefore each rider could be considered a podium contender.

Meanwhile, with £100 on offer for the leading junior Pfeiffer Georgi must be the favourite to take this home. Local rider April Tacey (Team22), the runaway winner of the recent two day Junior Essex Giro which she won after a 35-mile solo break, will also be in the mix along with riders such as Georgia Bullard (Team Jadan Weldtite-Vive le Velo) who has shown some consistent form over the longer distances this year.

…And Finally
The final mentions in this preview must go to event organiser Colin Clews and Peter Stanton who personally sponsors the race. Colin and Peter must be thanked for creating this must-ride and must-watch one day event on the women’s domestic calendar and providing a real showcase for women’s cycling.