Just over a month after a thrilling Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix, the women’s National Road Series returns this weekend with the sixth edition of the women’s CiCLE Classic.
Taking place on roads and farm tracks across the undulating landscape of Rutland and East Leicestershire, the course has all the ingredients for an enthralling afternoon of action.
It’s a young race, but it has quickly established itself as an important milestone on the women’s domestic road race calendar. Like the men’s version, it is famed for its off-road sectors and Belgian roadside atmosphere.
Starting and finishing in Melton Mowbray, the race is 105km long and features a circuitous route that will take in six off-road sectors, including Sawgate Lane, Somerberg, Manor Farm, and Newbold Manor, as well as the three categorised climbs of the day: Burrough Berg, Cold Overton Berg, and Cuckooberg.
The racing begins at 14:00 before eventually returning to Melton around 16:00 where the ‘Melton Town sprint’ will be contested for the race’s famous giant pork pie award. The competitors will then complete a 15-kilometre finishing circuit that includes the Sawgate Lane sector ahead of the finish in Sherrard Street at around 16:30.
Abi Smith, now a pro with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, won last year’s edition after a stunning 40-kilometre solo break. The race’s other previous winners are Emily Nelson, Neah Evans, Katie Archibald and Becky Durrell.
The race forms round two of the National Road Series and features a strong line-up of 127 riders. Series leader Becky Storrie (CAMS-Basso) will be on the start line, fresh from an outstanding ride at the Women’s Tour where she was the best-placed Brit. She will be joined by her closest rivals in the Series standings, Bianchi HUNT Morvelo’s Alice McWilliam and Jessie Carridge of the Brother UK-Orientation Marketing, who were second and third respectively at the Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix.
Three of the top five finishers from last season’s race will also take to the start. Team Boompod’s Ellen McDermott was second and comes into the race after a Tour Series win in Barking. Meanwhile, Le Col-Wahoo duo Eluned King and April Tacey were third and fourth in the race last season and are both contenders in their own right. Cyclo-cross specialist Amira Mellor (Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus) finished sixth last year, while Storrie’s teammate Sammie Stuart – a new signing at CAMS-Basso after a superb Tour Series – looked in good shape at the Women’s Tour and has the strength to improve on her tenth place in 2021. The ever-strong Pro-Noctis – Rotor – Redchilli Bikes by Heidi Kjeldsen team should also feature strongly.
Don’t rule out the juniors either – super-talent Zoe Bäckstedt (Acrog-Tormans) was 11th last season, and the newly-crowned junior national road race champion is more than capable of beating her senior-level competitors. 2022 Tour Series revelation Emma Jeffers (JRC-INTERFLON Race Team) is another exciting junior to watch, as is Tofauti Everyone Active’s Ella MacLean Howell.
The race’s future was in doubt earlier this year after losing its longstanding main sponsor. A massive crowdfunding campaign ensued to ensure the continuation of the race this year. Race director Colin Clews has also secured a three-year sponsorship deal from 2023 which, together with support from Dame Laura Kenny, means the future of the race is now safeguarded until at least 2025.
Earlier in the day, starting at 9:30, the country’s brightest junior men line up for the junior CiCLE Classic: round six of the Junior Men’s National Road Series.