The Merlin Cycles Classic Series returns this weekend with a challenging 39-mile course based on the border of Worcestershire and Herefordshire.
Winner of round one, Phil Williams (Team Bottrill) is absent from the second round which is being organised by Beacon RCC, opening the door for his rivals to take an advantage in the overall series.
The series and prizes are decided on the highest aggregate total of points from up to four of the six events.
Leon Wright (Race Hub) was narrowly beaten in the opening round but has not ridden since the first round three weeks ago.
Richard Bussell (AeroCoach) got his season off to a winning start last weekend clocking 18-48 in the Stratford 10 and will be the man to beat starting as last man.
Wright and Bussell will both have previous knowledge of the course after finishing third and fifth respectively when the event was last held in 2019.
Starting and finishing in Great Witley, the event sees riders complete an opening 17-mile loop east towards Worcester and then back through Little Witley before starting a long drag up past the start and onto a larger and hillier loop.
After exiting Great Witley riders hit Walsgrove Hill before a quick descent down to Stanford Bridge and then climbing out the other side through the trees of the Park Plantation.
Descending down into Upper Sapey riders then have a technical run into Herefordshire towards Bromyard.
Joining the fast A44 competitors then head down through Bringsty Common before turning sharply at Knightwick up the challenging Ankerdine Hill coming at around the 33-mile point and then heading towards the finish.
The Team Bottrill challenge in this round will come from George Evans while Alex Royle (Manchester Bicycle Club) will be looking to improve on his third place in the last round.
In the women’s series the winner of the previous round Joss Lowden (Drops - Le Col s/b Tempur) isn’t riding, opening the door for second place finisher Francesca Hall (Loughborough Lightning / TRG) to take a march in the overall series.
However, entering the competition are Sarah Storey (Storey Racing), Jessica Rhodes-Jones (AeroCoach) and Megan Dickerson (Škoda DSI Cycling Academy).
Storey has yet to ride this season while Rhodes-Jones and Dickerson have both recorded event wins.
After winning the opening round by almost two minutes Jacob Tipper (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling) heads a field of 61 riders in the road bike event.
Competition could come in the form Oliver Bridgewood (Bath Cycling Club) who won the VC Bristol road bike 10 and Xavier Disley (AeroCoach) who finished second in the VTTA 15 earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the women’s road bike event will see Nicola Juniper (Team Echelon) and Rebecca Richardson (Team Brother UK) go head-to-head as both make their series debuts.
After finishing third in the VTTA 15 earlier in the month Tim Wood (Team Echelon) starts as last man in the veterans’ event.
Ryan Greaves (Team HUUB) won the opening round of the juniors’ category and starts as scratch rider as he looks to extend his series advantage.
Meanwhile, in the paracyclists’ category the first round victor David Murphy (Liverpool Mercury CC) will face competition from veteran Graeme Church (Team Milton Keynes).
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