Conor Dunne (JLT Condor) staged a late attack to win the 2016 Rutland-Melton International Cicle Classic in Leicestershire on Sunday.
The 24-year-old Hertfordshire rider had been part of a break that expected to fight out a sprint – but Dunne escaped in the final few hundred metres to take a solo victory by 14 seconds.
The 2016 Cicle Classic – Colin Clews’ dream of a Belgian Classic in Rutland realised – set off from Oakham for two quick laps of Rutland Water.
The weather was dry and bright, if a little nippy, and the teams were active with a number of attacks at the head of the race. Ross Lamb of Godfrey Bikewear Race Team and Rhys Williams of the East Midlands broke away after 15km but were hauled back before an accident caused the race to be stopped for almost 20 minutes.
When they hit the Hotspot as they passed through Oakham, the race was all together with Ian Wilkinson taking the points for Pedal Heaven RT ahead of Raleigh-GAC’s Andrew Hawdon and Andris Volsekalns of Reitimu Delfin.
As the race climbed Cold Overton Hill it was Kristian House of One Pro Cycling who took the King of the Bergs points from Thomas Traviss-Pollard of Kuota Metaltek and Josh Edmondson of NFTO. He took five more points 17km later at Burrough-on-the-Hill – this time pipping Tom Stewart of Madison Genesis and Conor Dunne of JLT Condor.
Rory Townsend of Pedal Heaven took the same two climbs next time round, but a second for House at Burrough-on-the-Hill was enough to clinch the jersey.
As the race entered the rough sections which give it its character it was Stewart that took the first Owston Hot Spot Sprint ahead of track star Sebastian Mora of Raleigh-GAC and Dion Smith of One Pro Cycling. Dunne then took the lead after the Somerberg on the first lap before Alex Paton of Pedal Heaven took over at the front for the second and last of the Owston Hot Spot sprints.
I thought I was going to blow up in the last 1km but I just said to myself ‘Come on!’ - winner Conor Dunne
As the race headed off towards Melton it once again ebbed and flowed with riders breaking clear and the race coming back together. Stewart was first in to Melton to start the final lap – for which he won an enormous pork pie (Townsend having already won his weight in beer at Owston) – at the head of a small group.
The race again came together and that was the last information the crowd at the finish line had as they waited for the bunch to arrive for a final stampede.
When Dunne came into view all alone it took every by surprise (not least, it turned out, Dunne himself).
He’d pulled out 14 seconds over Gruffud Lewis of Madison Genesis in the last couple of miles, with Dunne’s team mate Christopher Lawless at the head of a group of eight riders a further 10 seconds back. That, plus Russell Downing’s 12th place, was enough to give JLT the team honours.
Dunne explained after the race how his early break away in the roads around Owston had come about: “I didn’t mean to attack – I just kind of rolled off the front and then I was away and I just ticked over and went through the section.
“[In the break at the end] we had two good cards to play because Chris [Lawless] is a good sprinter and the guys were watching Chris and I was just trying to soften them up and keep it together and then, maybe, Chris could sprint and take the win.
“And then it just happened at the end everyone swung round and I just happened to have the legs and hit it as hard as I could and got the gap – and maybe they looked at Chris because they knew I’d bring him to the line so I just had to dig in. I thought I was going to blow up in the last 1km but I just said to myself ‘Come on!’”
1 Conor DUNNE JLT Condor pb Mavic 4h48’30”
2 Gruffudd LEWIS Madison- Genesis @ 14 seconds
3 Christopher LAWLESS JLT Condor pb Mavic @ 24
4 Jake KELLY Team Wiggins same time
5 Dion BEUKEBOOM Park Hotel Continental Team st
6 Nicolas VEREECKEN An Post-Chain Reaction st
7 Alexander BLAIN Madison- Genesis st
8 Hayden MCCORMICK ONE Pro Cycling st
9 Dan FLEEMAN Kuota – Metaltek st
10 Ian BIBBY NFTO Pro Cycling st