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The British Belgian Style Classic: A riders view of the 2018 Rutland Cicle Classic

April 25, 2018

Rutland always has a different feel to it than other races.

 

The UCI status, the challenging parkour, the 195km distance, all the way through to the fact there is more helpers buzzing around you trying to ease the faff of the pre race ritual. 

Photo: Alex Duffill Photography

 

The Rutland Cicle Classic is a red letter day for Uk Elite racers and this is our second crack at the event for Flamme Rouge.

Photo: Alex Reed Photography

 

Coffee drunk, muesli consumed, numbers pinned and pockets filled we roll to the start. Another unique moment at Rutland is the signing on. Usually this process is confined to a small village hall in the middle of nowhere with a lovely old lady asking for your race license. Not at Rutland. Up on a travelling stage, to sign on in front of our adoring fans with a running commentary on Jack’s height.

 

One last wave... Race time. 

 

 

This year the route has changed slightly, we’re heading anti clockwise around the Rutland Reservoir, doesn’t sound to bad!? There is now a looooong drag up past the water which is said to make it safer, just makes it harder. 80km done, 2 laps of the Res, and we’re flying back into Oakham.

By this point 4 riders are up the road so there’s no need to for the bunch to contest the sprint for their weight in Beer. The pace is still full on for positioning on the first sector. Ollie has been riding like a machine all race, rarely outside the top 30/40 riders. I on the other hand, constantly at the back. Moving up, only to find the fluidity of the peloton overtaking me and I’m near the back again. Not cool. 

 

We hit the first sector... Crash! Couple of riders in front hit the deck. Not moving fast but we get held up, and suddenly a full gas chase is on to get back to the group. Hitting 80kph down the decent trying to close the gap... The main group is tantalising close. Get back in at a sharp left just as we hit the main road. And relax. 

Photo: Alex Reed Photography

 

The speed, power and panic ebbs and flows over the next hour of racing. But next is the mighty Somerberg. Calling it a track doesn’t quite do it justice. Part mud, part gravel, part hell... it’s getting serious now. The race lights up. FULL GAS! Suffering just to hold the wheel, people swing out the line with punctures here there and everywhere.

Photo: VeloUK Larry Hickmott

 

The bunch is split into multiple groups. We reach the road, quick bounce on the pedals to check no puncture... and chase. I look around, I knew Ollie was just behind me over the Somerberg but can’t see him now. Matt nowhere to be seen, Jack, lost in the dust commotion and panic. I’m on my own in this group of 10. We catch back on just before the 2nd feed. A much needed bottle and gel. 

Photo: Alex Duffill Photography

 

Through the feed, the group has slowed a bit and allows me to get back into the bunch. Just enough time to catch my breath before some one attacks up the hill and I’m in the red again trying to hold the wheel. 

 

The route, which I am still completely confused about, now heads back around through the feed for the third and final time. I’ve had 4 bottles by this point and take a couple more.

Photo: Alex Duffill Photography

 

It’s hot, dusty and legs are starting to feel the effects of the efforts. Please don’t cramp. 

 

Over the Somerberg the opposite way and we’re on the way to the finishing circuit. The thoughts of actually being able to survive start to creep in. We can do this. 

 

Photo: Alex Duffill Photography

 

Unfortunately I hadn’t really paid attention to the course past the Somerberg, as maybe I didn’t want to tempt fate. Suddenly another King of the Berg point rises up out of nowhere. I’m in trouble, legs cramping, heart beating a 1000 times a minute. Must. Hold. On. I just about cling on to the tail of the strung out peloton. Now down to just 60 odd riders, I’m feeling out of my depth. Pros, foreign teams and full time racers surround me. Should I really be here? Probably not, but I am. I’m going to finish no matter what. Legs are ok apart from the cramps. 

Photo: Alex Duffill Photography

 

2 sectors to go, one of them twice, so there’s still plenty of time for things to go wrong. The group is nervous. We swing left onto the Stapleton Sector, full on gravel road. Huge sections of deep gravel. You just have to hit and hope. 1 down, just two left to go. Back on a fast main road, through the finish line and 20ks to go. By this point we’re 175km and 4 1/2hrs done. Just 20k. That’s half my commute to work, I can do this. I think. 

Photo: Alex Duffill Photography

 

Start to climb out of Melton Mowbray, the finishing town, legs cramping hard. Struggling to shake it out. I see jack on the side of the road with odd wheels in, guess he punctured then. Still no sign of Matt or Ollie. 

Photo: Alex Duffill Photography

 

Another sharp left onto the Sawgate Sector. Pure brutality. Riders everywhere with punctures and broken bikes. Loud bangs as rocks, yes rocks, ping off the bikes. Still in one piece. I’m alone in between groups. Should I wait? Should I dig in to try and get across? How will the legs cope? A group of 4 are in front only a short distance off... guess I’m digging in then. 

 

Photo: Alex Duffill Photography

 

Catch the group, one last sector of rough stuff to go. Survive that and we’re home free. We’re through. 5k to go and all on road. Now my group has swelled to 7 as we collect riders being spat out the group ahead. This is it. I’m going to finish. 

 

A quick run in to Melton Mowbray, glide left, I can see the finish. The sprint starts, I hold the wheel, but nothing more. Nothing left. Over the line. That’s it, finished, survived, and only 2:43 down on the winner. 5hrs, 195km, 46th place, that was a long day out. 

Photo: Alex Reed Photography

 

Matt wins the sprint for the next main group on the road, another 8 minutes back and comes home with 69th place. Collapsed against the barriers we sit, drinking coke, exhausted. Matt looks at me, “We’ve done a lot of weird s**t together on bikes!” 

 

The Data - Will’s strava activity can be found here.  

 

Thanks to all the helpers on the day. Our sponsors who make racing possible for the team: Flamme Rouge Cycles, Trek Bikes, Bontrager, Telopea, Holland & Barrett, Bedfordshire University Human Performance Centre, Schwalbe Tyres UK, TMGPro Custom Cycle Clothing.

 

Photo credits to Alex Duffill, Nathaniel Rosa, Alex Reed & Billy Fadden