The CiCle Classic is a UCI 1.2 race meaning the majority of the 180 man field were professional with teams coming from USA, Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain and Latvia, along with the large English contingent.
The race is unique in the British racing scene. It is 125 miles long and punctuated by many off road sectors. These sectors vary in difficulty from light gravel roads to something you would only want to take a monster truck over..... or at least it felt that way!
Since it is a team only event, I was fortunate enough to be able to guest ride for Bryan Steel Academy, an opportunity I am very thankful for!
This was my first experience racing on closed roads in such a competitive field and from the off it was evident how different this is to what I have experienced before. In normal British road racing, moving to the front of the bunch is simply a matter of nipping round the outside and slotting back in towards the pointy end. Once there, it is easy to maintain your position. The CiCle was a whole different ball game; I spent the first 2.5 hours of the race trying to move up the peloton to avoid crashes and the concertina effect felt at every road narrowing (of which there were many). When I finally reached the front of the peloton it didn't last long and 2 minutes later I had been swamped finding myself back where I started mid pack. It goes without saying that this aspect of my racing needs practice!
Anyway, the race itself was great fun, flying along narrow lanes with barely enough room for 3 a breast made it a very exciting ordeal and half the time I found myself riding on the grass verge! I was comfortably in the leading bunch coming into the 2nd passing of the Somerberg sector at mile 100 and then my luck ran out. I punctured and a slow wheel change meant the bunch was already half a mile up the road. There were quite a few other riders who had been dropped or had punctures themselves so we formed a mini grupetto and rolled round the final hour together. I crossed the line in 66th. Not a result to write home about but it was a great learning experience and I'm proud to have finished. It gives me an idea of what I need to do in order to be competitive in these larger races and hopefully, come next year, that will be the case!
The crowds were amazing and the support they offered made for a great atmosphere around the whole event. I will certainly be back next year to try and conquer the 'hell of the East Mids'.
In the next month I have my University exams so racing will take a back foot for a couple of weeks giving me time to refocus and hopefully put together some good training to attack the summer season.