Tenth place for Scott Thwaites at the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic represented a strong result for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK, gained in difficult circumstances. Most significantly, it provided further evidence for Thwaites' rapid readjustment to domestic racing and a further haul of vital qualifying points for the Tour of Britain.
Thwaites and road captain Ali Slater, who finished nineteenth, were the only representatives of Pridham’s six-man squad present in an unusually large finishing group of nearly 40 riders, who contested the finish in Melton Mowbray after more than five hours of racing.
A gruelling parcours, characterised by gravel sectors that have earned it the nickname “Britain’s Belgian Classic”, pushed the men and the machines contesting this fifteenth edition of the CiCLE Classic to the limit, but with support from Slater and the self-sealing technology of the team’s Schwalbe tubeless tyres, Thwaites claimed vital Tour of Britain qualification points on a day where his willingness to fight to the finish was plain.
“It wasn’t what we really wanted, and we could potentially have done a lot better, but we did the best we could with what we had,” Thwaites summarised.
An early, three-man breakaway containing Wim Kleiman (Monkey Town), Matt Nowell (St Piran) and Josh Horsley (Team PB Performance) soon established a lead that grew to eight minutes, aided by an unusual stasis within the bunch.
While previous editions of the CiCLE Classic, one of the best-loved races on the domestic calendar, have been celebrated for their all-action racing, the 2019 edition was a flat affair, with none of the stronger teams prepared to chase the escapees.
“It was a raced in a very strange way. None of the bigger teams was represented in the three-man breakaway and it became a very slow race, raced quite negatively. No one took responsibility; no one tried to split up the race. There was a little bit of a fight for some of the more important sections, but it never split that much,” Thwaites reflected.
“We came to the finishing circuit with around 50 riders, which was probably one of the biggest groups that we’ve had at the finish of the CiCLE Classic. From there, a few small attacks launched, but most people it seemed had almost settled for a sprint.”
Not only was Thwaites hampered by an unwillingness among his rivals to take on the race, but with just Slater to call upon for assistance, the Yorkshireman was forced to join the collective waiting game.
“Unfortunately, we were a bit outnumbered at the end, with only two guys left. We were very wary about pushing too hard to make the selection and then risk leaving ourselves open to a counter attack,” Thwaites said.
To add to his frustrations, Thwaites punctured on the infamous Sawgate Lane sector, the most demanding gravel section of a concluding circuit that propels the riders to the finish in the centre of Melton Mowbray.
Thwaites praised the self-sealing technology of his Schwalbe tubeless tyres, but with far from optimum pressures, and no team-mates to call upon for a spare bike, he was forced to fight with the weapons at his disposal.
“I punctured for the first time across the main sector on the finishing circuit, with around 25km to go. The Schwalbe tyre did a great job and sealed, but left me with not much air; just enough to ride on, and too late to risk changing wheels,” Thwaites said.
“In an ideal world, it would have been nice to have four guys in that group, and to have asked one of the lads to pass me a bike, so I could have gone for a result on another bike. On a tyre on that’s fairly flat, it was always going to be difficult to sprint against some of the best guys in the country, but Ali and I worked on a strategy of damage limitation.”
An exhilarating final sprint was decided by a photo finish, with victory claimed by Colin Joyce of Rally UHC Cycling. The American pipped Gabz Cullaigh on the line, denying the Team Wiggins rider back-to-back victories by the narrowest of margins. Rory Townsend (Canyon-dhb, p/b Bloor Homes) was third.
More significantly for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK, the points scored in Rutland have helped to place the team third on the leaderboard for Tour of Britain qualification. With the Tour de Yorkshire imminent, the opportunity to add to their haul on arguably the biggest stage in domestic cycling is one the team will embrace.
Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic 2019 – results
1) Colin Joyce – Rally-UHC Cycling
2) Gabriel Cullaigh – Team Wiggins
3) Rory Townsend – Canyon-dhb p/b Bloor Homes
4) Jake Scott – SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling
5) Tom Pidcock (Team Wiggins-Le Col)
6) Alex Luhrs (Ribble Pro Cycling)
7) Bas Van Der Kooij (Monkey Town- A Block CT)
8) Piotr Havik (BEAT Cycling Club)
9) Steve Lampier (St Piran)
10) Scott Thwaites (Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK)
19) Ali Slater (Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK)
52) Mikey Mottram (Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK)
90) Chris Latham (Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK)
DNF – Ed Clancy (Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK)
DNF – Adam Kenway (Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK)