A tough race calls for a tough guy. The East Midlands International CiCLE Classic provided both when Ian Wilkinson crossed the line ahead of breakaway companion Michael Berling from Denmark at the end of 99 gruelling miles.

Wilkinson was on fire and would not be denied, having finished second to Malcolm Elliott in 2007. “When he came across, you could tell he was the one to watch,” said eventual fourth place Darren Lapthorne. And watch was all the former Australian champion could do when Wilkinson and Berling made the winning move.

Once Wilkinson rounded the final bend in pole position, there was no passing the Halfords Bikehut man.

“The lad that come second, he came across to us on that ramp after the town, and he was speaking English alright, so we tanked across to the three in front,” said the winner as he caught his breath at the finish in Melton Mowbray.

“I knew because we had been riding round the course yesterday it were a tailwind and crosswind back, so we were flying then.”

Yanto Barker (G Thomas-Colnago) led in the three riders fighting for the last podium position, with the rest of the 41 finishers arriving in dribs and drabs over the next five minutes.

There were the usual tales of trials and tribulations associated with this race from the dust-covered peloton. Russ Downing, looking good and attacking alongside Wilkinson before a rear tyre blowout scuppered his chances; Kristian House, another puncture victim, forced to settle for the King of the Mountains prize; Martyn Irvine. Whether unfamiliarity with the course or sheer exhaustion, his dive into a hedge in the final kilometres proved costly.

It may well be luck, all those mechanicals, yet more or less the same riders crop up in the top twenty of this race every year. You need “a little finesse”, says Wilkinson, to escape unscathed from the off-road sections.

Finesse is what Wilkinson had on the day, along with detailed knowledge of the course, sound tactics and sheer power. A well-deserved victory for a man who was still grinning from ear to ear an hour after the prize presentation.
imagePete Williams tackles Stygate

Good show
A fantastic race over possibly the most perplexing course you will ever encounter. Organiser Colin Clews and Inspector Toby Day of Leicestershire Constabulary seem to have the whole thing imprinted in their brains. For the rest of us, standing in the middle of Owston village meant the bunch popping up every which way at frequent intervals. And it was anybody’s guess which direction they would be coming from. Great stuff.

Don’t forget to tune in to Eurosport on Sunday evening for highlights of the race, including helicopter coverage brought in by Clews to show the race at its best. “To see the bunch coming over Somerburg and through the sharp corners in Owston is absolutely amazing from the air,” he said.

Not so good
A bunch of 190 riders is an impressive sight, but with a fair few unable to match the pace on the opening circuits of Rutland Water, and many more pulled out once the rough stuff started, there were comments from several team managers regarding the quality of the field.

Many competitors were distinctly uncompetitive. Clews explained the thinking behind including less-able riders in the race.

“I do agree with you that we don’t have the quality in depth to ride a race like that. But East Midlands Development Agency [one of the event’s sponsors] are very keen, as I am, on giving the opportunity to riders that might not otherwise get to ride an international race: of experiencing it on their doorsteps.

“People have asked if we are thinking of moving it up from a [UCI] 1.2 to a 1.1. Apart from the fact that we wouldn’t be looking at a £40,000 budget but £150,000, the thing that you immediately do is limit the type of riders that you can take. We wouldn’t be able to take any regional of club riders whatsoever. That would rule out anybody that isn’t part of any of the Pro or national teams in this country. We have only got four teams in this country that are eligible at that level.

“The numbers issue, we like to push. Obviously, it assists in financing the race. Perhaps there is a compromise that we need to reach. We do want to give British riders the opportunity to ride this race, but maybe limit the numbers a little bit to get a bit more quality in there.”
imageYanto Barker: Happy with third

RESULTS:
1. Ian Wilkinson (GBr) Team Halfords BikeHut in 3.57.22
2. Michael Berling (Den) Glud & Marstrand
3. Yanto Barker (GBr) Geoff Thomas-Colnago-Assos
4. Darren Lapthorne (Aus) Rapha Condor
5. Martyn Irvine (Irl) Ireland National Team
6. Maros Kovac (Svk) Dukla Trencin Merida
7. Matthew Stephens (GBr) Specialised-SigmaSpt.
8. Russell Downing (GBr) Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta
9. James Cambridge (GBr) BC East Mids Devel
10. Tobyn Horton (Bel) Deschuytter-Abutriek
11. Malcolm Elliott (GBr) CandiTV-MarshallsPasta
12. Juraj Sagan (Svk) Dukla Trencin Merida
13. Stephen Adams (GBr) Plowman Craven-Madison
14. James Millard (GBr) Plowman Craven-Madison
15. Ross Adams (GBr) BC West Midlands
16. Tom Last (GBr) BC West Midlands
17. Matt Kipling (GBr) KUK-Kinesis
18. Alex Wetterhall (Swe) Cyclesport.se-Magnus Maximus Coffee.com
19. Dion Beukeboom (Ned) Midi Center- Ruiter Wielerteam
20. Grant Bayton (GBr) Sports Beans-Wilier

MOUNTAINS JERSEY:
Kristian House (Rapha Condor)

CICLE CLASSIC ON TV
British Eurosport, May 3, 7.30pm
British Eurosport, May 7, 7pm

imageMagnus Backstedt loved the rough stuff

SUPER TEAM CHALLENGE

Wilko’s win keeps the Halfords boys at the top of the plot thanks to a bumper 16 points taken by the strongman at the CiCLE.

This may be the Super Team Challenge but that doesn’t preclude one-man-band Yanto Barker from storming the charts under the guise of LeCol-Colnago with his fine third place.

That just leaves Rapha Condor and Plowman Craven-Madison to pull their fingers out and get some scores on the board. They are currently looking less than super.

Battle resumes at the Chas Messenger Premier Calendar on Sunday.

Halfords Bikehut 54 pts
CandiTV-Pinarello 37 pts
Sports Beans-Wilier 20 pts
LeCol-Colnago 10 pts
Rapha Condor 9 pts
Plowman Craven-Madison 5 pts

MAN OF THE RACE

MARTYN IRVINE
Strong riding from the young Irishman put him in the original 11-man break and kept him in contention for the final five-man shakedown. One overcooked corner and an argument with a hedge later and his chances of winning were gone.

Irvine has been selected for the Irish national squad FBD Insurance Rás starting May 17.

RELATED LINKS
Wilkinson wins CiCLE Classic
Andy Jones’ CiCLE Classic gallery
Premier Calendar hub