Words by Emma Osenton
Launching on the weekend of the 6th and 7th June the UCI Tour of Cambridge sees the UK's very first genuine continental style Gran Fondo with a 132km race and a time trial which is a qualifying round of the world amateur road racing championships.
Whilst many other events use the title Gran Fondo this is the real deal. For those of you who are unfamiliar, in Italy if you've not made it as a pro by the age of 23 then Gran fondo is the only form of racing you can participate in. Nothing like our more familiar sportives in anything other than that they are mass participation. The front of the race is gridded and includes team cars, teams, managers and everything you would expect from a big shiny race.
Think of it more like a marathon, a long distance event with a race at the front, but more of a leisure ride further back with riders out to challenge themselves.
The Tour of Cambridge forms part of the UCI World Cycling Tour (UWCT) a series of UCI sanctioned races held all over the world. All qualifier events will qualify the top 25% in each age group to the Amateur Road World Championships, the former UWCT Final and UCI Masters Road World Championships, where the champions are awarded with the coveted rainbow jersey. After its launch in 2011, the UCI World Cycling Tour has grown to include events in 11 countries worldwide with more added for 2015.
While promoting high level competition for Masters and Amateur, one of the aims of this series is the globalization of "Cycling for All". With that in mind, the geographical spread of the events is very important, alongside with strict organisational and sporting criteria, and a certain tourism interest.
The Saturday sees the time trial with 700 riders launching down a pro style ramp at 30 second intervals to complete the 28km course on fully closed roads, with the top 25% in each category qualifying for the World Championship 2015 in Aalborg, Denmark later in the year. Something the organisers are keen to talk about is the equal prize money for both men and women with winners netting £1500. It's worth mentioning that if you already hold UCI points you may not enter this event.
We took a ride round the lollipop shaped course, albeit without the starting ramp, from the Peterborough showground where the event is to be staged, one may think that the area is totally flat however a few short punchy climbs will keep it interesting, nothing to drop you out of the big ring but enough to gain a climber a few precious seconds as the course winds round Haddon mast before returning to the showground. As we rode round the winds of the flat lands played with the mind by feeling like a constant headwind! Challenging indeed for the riders on the day.
On the Sunday the Gran Fondo takes place with a later than usual start of 12pm. Riders are gridded according to their licenses from the front in accordance with UCI UWCT rules. The 132km course also on fully closed roads takes riders out through some short climbs more akin to Belgium before winding it's way out onto the Fens. Riders are all started at once from the gun. The riders will need good bunch riding skills in order to keep up speed if they're in with a chance of the prizes, again equal for both men and women across all categories.
Not to worry if you're not at the sharp end of things as there is space for everyone and challenge riders start further back. The organisers have suggested a minimum speed of 12mph to stay in front of the road closures though.
There are two feed stations out on the course, the sharp end of things may not stop but there's plenty there for everyone if you're taking a more relaxed pace.
The organisers have an event village with podium planned but as yet no details of who or what will be there.
The Peterborough Sue Ryder hospice is the charity partner for the event, the money raised will go towards their new extended wing. It's quite a fantastic piece of design, single story to conceal it behind the walls of the 17th century building which currently makes up the wards of the hospice. The wards will move inside the new building enabling the existing building to be used for outreach staff and day patients.
More details can be found here.
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