Talking CiCle Classic with Ian ‘Superman’ Wilkinson


The only double winner of the British race the CiCLE Classic talks about the first UCI race for 2015 in Britain

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Talking CiCle Classic with Ian ‘Superman’ Wilkinson

Thanks to Jenni Manning for some of this feature

With two wins, notably achieved four years apart in 2009 and 2013, Ian Wilkinson’s performance at the CiCLE Classic can only be described as outstanding. A background in cyclo-cross and mountain bike racing, his skill as a builder, managing hazards and risks and his Lancashire grit all seem to have contributed to his ‘superman’ edge.


Ian (centre) in the winners jersey with Ian Bibby who races the event in 2015 with NFTO. 

An edge that sets him apart from his contemporaries in the CiCLE Classic where the mix on and off-road racing suits his style unreservedly. So we asked Wilko if a third win at the CiCLE Classic 2015 could be a possibility, or is it really ‘a race of fortune.’

“I’d say it’s mostly down to the training you do, but fortune is 90% in my opinion. Just look where Yanto punctured last year! I’d say if you put in good preparation, training, and you’re in a quality team like Raleigh GAC, the rest is down to the way the dice rolls on the day.”

Since the 2014 season, there have been a few changes within Team Raleigh GAC with the departure of names such as Barker and 2012 CiCLE Classic winner Alex Blain and the arrival of internationals such as Karol Domagalski from Poland who rode the 2014 Vuelta a Espana, sprinter Matti Manninen from Finland and former South African under-23 road race champion Calvin Beneke.


Together with Tour of Britain rider Steve Lampier, 2012 British Junior Road Race Champion Sam Lowe, and crit specialist Andy Hawdon, there have been a number of additions to the squad.

Talking about the changes, Wilkinson explains “Yes, Raleigh GAC has changed a number of riders over the winter but the new squad has bonded well and with some strong additions, we should have a rider for every outcome, fortune permitting!”

Although well into the Spring Classics season and already with a podium at Eddie Soens Memorial, we asked Ian how his winter training had gone in preparation for this season. He replied “Winter has been a bit more old school for me. I’ve been working on renovating my new house and that has seen a more focused approach to training but my time spent in Lanzarote has perked up the hours! Usually I’ve been operating a standard working day of 8am til 2pm followed by a bike ride home.”

And many a rider can sympathise with the hours spent on the turbo, so we asked, how he gets through the repetitive nature of that? “It’s a case of needs must usually, but it’s nice to share twitter pics and interact with people via social media as it helps to get it done.”


Ian recces a gravel sector called Sawgate with Raleigh-GAC teammate Liam Stones for last years event.

When we asked what he would like to achieve this year, ‘Superman’ replied “Win everything I can and help the younger or newer riders to succeed.” And when we asked how he measures success, he says “during training, with a power meter and stopwatch; in a race… best placed team finisher.”

Asked what it is about the race that so many riders want to be part of it, Ian explained “I have done every edition bar one and from the first time I did it, it captured the imagination because it was different with off road sections and circuits though villages from different directions”.

“It had a European feel to it with the loops you do around the lanes and Melton Mowbray always gives the race a big welcome. Using narrow roads as well, it suited riders who want to be aggressive and that was always good for me.”

The race starts with two loops of Rutland Water on some big roads as well as some that twist and turn but there’s no gravel sections so, is it more a transition section or an integral part of the action?

“I think every year, the race winning break, or a one that stays away to the finish and is joined later on by a few chasers, will go away on the roads around Rutland Water and go on to contest the win. That’s a testament to the circuit which is so tight and twisty in places that teams can’t get organised behind.”

“The loops round Rutland Water are important to the race and when you have such a big field, some of those roads round there can get pretty small when so many riders are trying to squeeze through! So it’s a test to stay in the mix at the front of the washing machine and keep an eye on what’s going and what isn’t.” The key thing about the CiCLE Classic is this mix of wide A roads and narrow lanes which are so narrow they are not worthy of a classification. This brings challenges to the riders so I asked Ian at what point in the race do riders really have to focus on positioning?


Ian flat stick last year on the Rutland Water loops

“There’s the Rutland Water loops where you need to circulate at the front, then the first time you turn off the main road (Oakham to Melton Mowbray) into Northfield Lane and head for the first KoM, there’s always a big bun fight”.

“And then the Somerberg for the first time. Beyond there, you settle into a race rhythm. T he first time over Somerberg, you realise whether you have the legs for it or not. That’s the nitty gritty part of the race”.

The race is near enough 180k, 111 miles, and in that there are perhaps three or four miles of proper off if that. Because of that, teams are very aware of the need to avoid punctures or be prepared for that happening and will have anyone who can help have some wheels ready to provide for riders should that do so.

“It’s a race of fortune and there have been races where I have punctured a few times and in others, not punctured at all” Ian explains. “Having one does make a difference because the team car is rarely near you so it can be down to luck whether you have someone on the side of the road or a teammate.”

Ian that adds that with riders racing so much on 25mm tyres, there probably won’t be much, if any, change to the tyres used normally in races.

As a former mountain biker, I asked does he still ride a lot of road for fun/training? “Not as much I’d like to” he replies. “This winter, I did a fair bit with some local lads and I massively enjoyed it. It’s a great skill to have and makes you more relaxed. It doesn’t make you any faster but if your wheels are sliding around, you’re not worried so much.”

It isn’t just experience off road that helps Ian but also his knowledge of the race and the parcour. “I can pretty much follow the whole course in my head and that’s a big help” he explained. “I do remember the first edition in particular, riding along and thinking ‘this road looks familiar, have we been down here’ and then ten minutes later you’re going the other way down the same road”.

“So it is important to know the roads and the order we take them in because all the roads look the same, up and down, and narrow so it can help you to do well knowing the circuits”.

The race over the years has mainly been dry and dusty but in 2012, the race was shortened because of flooding. What does Ian prefer? “Dry for me. I don’t mind bad weather but I’m not a sadist! When it’s dry, you get the barbeques out in Owston which is fantastic when you are riding around, mmmmm”.

Finally, it’s the first race of the season in Britain where the visitors by and large will not know the Brits and vice versa. “That’s one of the great things about the race in that the shoe is on the other foot” says Ian.


Winning is where it’s at and everyone who wins at CiCLE leaves no doubt about what it means to them – Ian winning when with UK Youth.

“It used to be, and still is a bit, that British teams go abroad for UCI races. You rock up, have no idea where the race is going and you are at a disadvantage straight away. So for a foreign rider coming to Britain who hasn’t done the race before and has no idea on the riders to watch, it’s great we can use our local savvy and come out on top”.

“I remember when I won one year there was this big old rider from Spain or somewhere and he won the King of the Mountains and he was really going for it, taking no prisoners. He blew his doors at the end but you never know where the challenge is going to come from. So you have to respect everyone as you should do anyway as the level is right up there now.”

Thanks to Ian and good luck to him and the Raleigh-GAC team on the weekend.

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