This year’s edition of the Rutland CiCLE Classic road race fell in between birthday party’s for my eldest daughter; Saturday it was friends (a brilliant day out pond dipping and running around at the National Trust’s Lyvden New Bield site) while Monday was family (spoilt rotten by grandparents). With the Sunday free I planned a ride over to Owston to watch the race.
During the week, the weather forecast for the weekend had been poor, promising rain and cold northerly winds. Saturday had defied expectations to be a warm, sunny day, but that evening, while I was prepping my bike in the garage, I heard the wind whip up in the trees outside and the rain beat down on the flat drum skin roof.
Sunday dawned overcast but dry, still, I went prepared with enough layers for standing around and my better waterproof, a hopeful talisman against bad weather. Riding down to Staughton I felt a few spots of rain. David P was waiting outside the pub. David L stopped too but couldn’t be tempted to ride out, I think domestic fear was the understandable excuse. One of the club run rides went by with a hello, then Tom pulled in. We waited for another minute then set off. The few spots of rain had stopped. We picked up Paul in Kimbolton, then waved goodbye to David L and crossed the A14 to collect Dave W at Winwick. By Oundle the clouds were breaking up and some warmth was filtering through.
After Oundle the terrain became lumpy and Dave W’s legs, more used to the Fens, found it hard work. We stopped in Uppingham for refreshment at Beans; Belgian waffles with all the trimmings was a popular choice. Just as the Rutland race pays homage to the Spring Classics of Northern Europe, I guess this was our tribute!
The next miles were properly lumpy, we yo-yo’d up and down, along roller coaster roads, through Riddlington, Braunston, Knossington and finally to Owston. We followed a lost race rider a part of the way, and climbed into the village just in time to hear the fanfare of marshals whistles before the race passed through.
A couple of riders had a small advantage over the peloton. The peloton, when it passed, was stretched and fractured, groups of riders filtered through the team cars, two stopped having punctured. The next time through we watched them peel off the gravel sector running into the village. The road here was lined with team support clutching spare wheels – this is a merciless course for tyres. One rider lost control on the loose stones covering a bend. They may as well have been racing on marbles and that we didn’t see more crash is a sure testament to their bike handling skill. Hugh porter, commentating from the back of a lorry, was rightly getting agitated by some of the crowd walking on to the course. The broom wagon hadn’t passed and riders were still coming through, racing against the 6 minute cut off time. The last rider made it through with seconds to spare and probably received the biggest cheer.
While the race went onto the next lap we headed over to the BBQ tent. Once sated, I went to the bins, next to where the chefs were cooking and couldn’t help but notice their bin was full of empty continental stubbies – Owston lacks a pub of its own, but they we being well catered for!
We strolled down to the bottom of the hill and waited at the bend. Raleigh’s Karol Damogalski (I think) had made a 45 second gap on the bunch, but the bunch were chasing hard and he wold soon be reeled back in.
We went back to our bikes, watched the race fly by for the last time and then headed for home.
If you were to draw a best fit line across the profile from Owston to St Neots it would be downhill all the way, but the Earth’s surface is imperfect, so after the Rutland lumps, beyond Uppingham and the mighty Seaton viaduct was Harringworth Hill. The biggest descent of the ride out was now the biggest ascent of the ride home. Did I mention David P is a veteran of Classic, the last time in the appalling 2012 edition? No? Well I followed his wheel up the climb. About two-thirds of the way up I tried to go past him. That was a mistake although I don’t think he even noticed…After Harringworth it really was downhill for several miles. Laxton gave us a surprise, at least 50, yes 50 red kites were circling over the village. They did make for an impressive sight and I guess someone was feeding them, probably to the annoyance of their neighbours.