DISTANCE 32 miles (51km)
MAIN CLIMB Newbold up to Burrough-on-the-Hill.
TOTAL CLIMB 618m
ACHTUNG! The short section of the A606 can be busy.
The Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic has, in the space of just three years since its inception, already become a must-do race on the calendar. The 100-mile race runs through the farming landscape of Leicestershire and Rutland. It is run from Oakham, by Rutland Water, to Melton Mowbray, over some of the characteristic narrow and poorly surfaced farm roads that link the farms and villages of the area.
This is what sets the race apart, with conditions in the latter half of the race reminiscent of the great Paris-Roubaix Classic. Scott Gamble, Robin Sharman, and this year Malcolm Elliott, have all taken the winning line in the market town of Melton Mowbray, after doing battle over a testing course; created by UCI International commissaire Colin Clews.
We meet up with Colin at the Windmill Tearooms in Wymondham, his home village. He’s back home after a month away doing commissaire work for the UCI in the ENECO Tour in Belgium, the U23 Giro Ciclistico d’Italia Internazionale, Valle D’Aosta in northern Italy, the UCI World MTB Championships in Fort William and finally the Tour of Britain. Colin took early retirement four years ago from his management job in his local health authority, but as his role as an international UCI commissaire has developed over the years, he is now kept ever busy.
“I probably do getting on for 100 days a year working for the UCI,” explains Colin. “I do road, mountain biking, cyclo-cross and anti-doping. This winter I’ve got six international cyclo-cross races that I’m doing. In addition, I’m now a member of the UCI tutor panel for other commissaires, so that takes up quite a bit of time. I’m also chairman of the Commissaires Commission in Britain, for British Cycling. That’s my retirement.” Clews smiles.
As we set off on the ride, Colin begins to explain how the Rutland-Melton race came about: “For years I’d been riding these roads, thinking this could be some really good racing country. I would have loved to have ridden this race when I was younger.”
Colin’s enthusiasm and love of the sport is clear in his voice as he continues the story. “When I retired and had time on my hands, I started to think about it more. The thing for me was that I wanted it to be high profile, so that meant a town-centre start and finish. We have two towns here about 10 miles apart, Oakham and Melton, so I went to the two councils and put the idea forward. At both councils I had got people that were involved with cycling who said what a great idea, we’ll support it.”
From there, Colin put a piece in the local newspaper explaining that he had an idea for a race, and that both councils would support it, and asking whether there would be anybody else willing to help and come on board. Colin picks up the story again as we continue the ride down the lanes towards Whissendine, its windmill clearly visible.
“I had two phone calls, one from Richard Harvey who owns the biggest business in the area, in Owston, which we go through six times during the race. Richard is a big fan of cycling, along with his colleagues at the Rural Training Centre and Manor Farm Feeds factory, and offered to sponsor the race if we brought it through his business yards.
“I’d been planning to take the race past their factory, it’s one of the roughest bits. It’s marked on the map but, when you get to it, it’s virtually a dead end. Then you turn into their farmyard and you go over this rough piece for about 100 metres or so.”
The second call came from Toby Day, the traffic sergeant at Oakham, and also general secretary of the Police Cycling Federation. “He was fantastic.” Colin stresses. “Any opposition that came from the police, he’d go to meetings and help to smooth the way. The support we get from the police is marvellous.”
The final name for the race evolved from a telephone call from the local newspaper, relates Colin. “‘What are you going to call it?’ they asked. So off the top of my head, I thought Paris-Roubaix, so… Rutland-Melton. Got to add something else. I run a small self-employed company called LifeCiCLE, and I thought OK, Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic, and that was it, the race was born there and then.”
From Whissendine, we come to join the A606 briefly. It’s the road that brings the route into the ‘rough stuff’, after it has looped Rutland Water in the early part of the race. A left turn off this main road takes us onto Stygate Lane.
“Stygate Lane, that’s the ‘Welcome to Hell’ bit. This to me is such a fabulous road, you are transported to Flanders, it doesn’t feel like an English road,” Clews again relates with enthusiasm. It becomes clear further up the road, as the Newbold to Burrough on the Hill section is tackled, that there is indeed a ‘Flanders’ flavour to the race. The route certainly cannot be described as flat. This Newbold section is a favourite section for Colin, though there is a sting in the tail.
“I hate it too, because the climb is one of those that goes up slightly, slightly, slightly and gets steeper and steeper, and you just don’t realise how hard it is until you actually ride it.”
Heading back to Owston and Knossington, Colin suddenly takes a left turn up a very narrow shrub-lined track, signed to Somerby.
This is ’Somerberg’ as Clews has named it. The rough track climbs up through open grazing land used for dairy cattle. “I have to love Somerberg.” enthuses Clews. “I was with the CTC when I first started cycling. If you start like that you never lose the thrill of riding over rough roads on your road bike. That to me is part of it. You can be vying with Cancellara or Museeuw in the pavé of Paris-Roubaix anytime you are on these bits of road.”
Colin tries to get out on the bike every other day when he’s home, and it’s a chance to check over sections of his race route. “I’ve had some bits resurfaced.” Colin tells us as he highlights a section of Somerberg. “I’ve had some hardcore put down to fill in some of the big holes.” It’s clear that Colin has regular contact with the landowners and council to keep his race ‘sectors’ to an ‘interesting standard’.
From ‘Somerberg’ Colin heads for Cold Overton and back through Whissendine to complete the ride back to Wymondham via Edmondthorpe.
There has been a spin-off from the CiCLE Classic race, with a cyclo-sportive having been created. It includes the race roads but also some more rough sections that cannot be put into the race route. “It was run for the first time this year. It‘s a really hard ride,” explains Colin. “For me it was a learning experience. There weren’t problems as such with it, but there were a lot of things which we can improve upon. There were some minor things that riders put to me where we could do better, and we have already started to put those in place for next year.”
The 2008 sportive will be on June 12. Next year’s Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic is on Sunday April 27, 2008.
YOUR GUIDE: COLIN CLEWS
* Colin is 57 and lives in Wymondham
* Originally from Stafford
* Enjoys a range of music. Folk singer Beth Nielsen-Chapman is a particular favourite
* Also relaxes with a wide range of reading and by pottering in the garden
* Won the Coventry to Nottingham Junior RR in 1967 and had his first senior win at the Goostrey race in Cheshire two years later
* Commissaire at 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and at first MTB events in the Olympics
Start at Windmill Tea rooms in Wymondham. Turn left (TL) to T-junction, and TL towards Wymondham centre. TR down unclassified lane. Take second left towards Whissendine. Pass through Whissendine to TR. Continue to A606 to TR to Green’s Lodge to TL down Stygate Lane to Pickwell to TL to Somerby.
Continue towards Owston, TR at crossroads towards Newbold and Burrough on the Hill. Bear left to TR towards John O’Gaunt, TL to Marefield and continue back to Owston to TL and then TR towards Knossington. Take first left up gated ’Somerberg’ back towards Somerby. At junction TR to TL to Cold Overton and up to A606 to TL and then TR to retrace back to Whissendine. TR in centre to TL after church. TR at next T-Junction to TL towards Edmondthorpe to TL back to Wymondham to finish.