Maldon Dengie Tour: The Big Preview
Despite only being held since 2008, the Maldon Dengie Tour will host the opening round of this year's Premier Calendar.
Having attracted all the big British teams - bar Endura Racing - in 2011, it's hardly surprising that the Essex event has been elevated to Premier Calendar status this time around.
Zak Dempster soloed to a fine victory twelve months ago after a dominant display by the Rapha-Condor-Sharp team. The Australian will return to the Sunday's race as the leader of Endura, who are unsurprisingly not skipping it this time around. Defending Premier Calendar champion Ian Bibby won't be among those lining up in the green and black kit, though.
Early season revelation Jon Tiernan-Locke will be there, as will Dan Lloyd, who makes his IG-Sigma Sport debut in the race. Former Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic (an event held over similiar terrain) winner Michael Berling (CyclePremier-Kovert) could spring a surprise, while we have to include the obligatory mention of former Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt when talking about a race of this nature.
To coincide with the race's rising reputation, organiser Alan Rosner has gradually increased the severity of the course.
The first editions only used two sections of farm track, before more off-road pathways were added. For 2012, the race will now take in nine section of non-tarmacked roads. Three new sections have also been added in the last 10 miles to increase the difficulty of the event.
Maldon Dengie Tour 2012: When and where?
Date: Sunday April 1
HQ and race start: Plume Upper School, Fambridge Road, Maldon, Essex CM9 6AB, 1pm
Race finish: Park Drive, Maldon, CM9 5UR, 4.51pm (approx)
Maldon Dengie Tour 2012: Watch out for...
Jon Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing)
It's unlikely that he will win the race, but the Devonian tops the UCI Europe Tour rankings. When was the last time someone riding a Premier Calendar could say that? CW hopes that he will wear the white jersey to signify his position at the top of the rankings.
Tobyn Horton (Raleigh-GAC)
Eighth last year, Horton goes into the race following a number of strong finishes in last week's Vuelta Mexico. Raleigh are due a big win, and it appears they have a team strong enough to achieve this on Sunday.
Dan Lloyd (IG-Sigma Sport)
Having ridden the Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem, E3 Harelbeke and Amstel Gold during his time with Garmin and Cervélo, Lloyd will be no stranger to this kind of one-day race.
Maldon Dengie Tour 2012: CW Rating
Flat marshes, an unblemished backdrop, cold easterly winds coming from the North Sea...it's the closest any British race comes to the cobbled classics, minus the chips and mayonaise.
The course is pan-flat throughout. It's the gravel roads, farm track and exposed sections that make the race so difficult.
Extremely tough. Four laps of the Bomb Alley will cause chaos and crashes. Only four riders finished within a minute of the winner in 2011, showing how selective the race is.
Last year the non-Premier Calendar race had a Premier Calendar field, which proves how highly the relatively new event is regarded. This could easily become Britain's best one-day race in time.
Maldon Dengie Tour 2012: Last year's top 10
1. Zak Dempster (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)
2. Graham Briggs (Rapha-Condor-Sharp) at 43 sec
3. Magnus Backstedt (Team UK Youth)
4. Luke Rowe (100% ME)
5. Wouter Sybrandy (Sigma Sport-Specialized) all at st.
6. Jonny McEvoy (Motorpoint) at 1-27
7. Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-Sharp) at 3-30
8. Tobyn Horton (Motorpoint)
9. Marcin Bialoblocki (Motorpoint)
10. Dean Windsor (Rapha-Condor-Sharp) all at st.
Dempster victorious in 2011
Maldon Dengie Tour 2012: Previous winners
2010: Adam Biggs (www.BassoBikes.co.uk)
2009: Andy Lyons (BMC UK RT)
2008: Billy Joe Whenman (Marin UK)
Maldon Dengie Tour: Related links
Premier Calendar 2012: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
CW's Super Team Challenge