Britain's best cyclo-cross riders face tough opposition in this Sunday's final National trophy round at Rutland Water with the last minute entry of Rob Peeters, fourth in last week's Belgian championship.
The Telenet-Fidea pro found himself without a race this weekend, having missed out on selection for the World Cup event in Roubaix, so makes the long journey to the East Midlands as preparation for the upcoming World Championships in Tabor later this month.
Joining Peeters are Ben Berden, 11th in the Belgian champs, and Kenneth Van Compernolle, 13th. Fast-improving under-23 contender Angelo De Clercq, son of three-time World Champion Mario, is one of eight international riders set to contest the mens elite race on the frozen shores of Rutland Water.
"To say I am delighted is an understatement," said race organiser Colin Clews. "It is great to have riders such as Rob and Kenneth, as well as Ben Berden, riding our testing British 'cross course."
More snowfall across the UK today [Wednesday] increased concerns that Sunday's racing - the Rutland County International CiCLE Classic to give the event its full title - would be cancelled following the postponement of the National Championships, due to take place in Birmingham last weekend.
"Cancellation is not in the vocabulary of the CiCLE Classic team," said Clews. "We have got snow, and might get a little bit more today, but I have been speaking to the warden at Rutland Water and he is expecting a general thaw. There is ice on the start and finish road at the moment, and that is giving us a little concern, but we can bypass that if necessary.
"We have got a full working party on Friday going down there, so we will be encouraging it to thaw some more if needed. The ground is not hard frozen: posts are going in OK, so it is looking tremendous. We just hope we get a lot of people coming. "
OLDHAM LOOKING GOOD
Series leader Paul Oldham takes a virtually unassailable lead to the East Midlands and looks set to wrap up the National Trophy barring disasters. Last year's inaugural running of the Rutland event could prove to be a good omen for the man from Lancashire. Oldham fended off national champion Jody Crawforth and Hargroves Cycles' Ian Field to win in icy conditions. All three leading riders hit the deck at least once during the hour-long race.
In the women's event, junior Hannah Barnes (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta) holds an equally strong series lead over Jo McRae (Arctic-Premier) in a disappointing entry of just 17 riders - stark contrast to the massive field of veterans.
Racing gets underway at 10.30am with the men starting at 2.15pm.
Crawforth: outside chance of snatching title
WHERE AND WHEN
Sunday January 17
Whitwell Sailing Club
Junior men 10:30
Veteran 40+ 1:00pm
Veteran 50+ 1:01pm
Senior men/under-23 2:15pm
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