The London Nocturne is an event quite unlike most others, on these shores at least.
Now in its eighth year, the eclectic mix of pro riders – world and Olympic champions among them – penny farthings, folding bikes and one fast-paced inner-city criterium circuit has proved to be a winning formula.
And for anyone who headed to London’s Smithfield Market last Saturday, it was easy to see why crowds packed several rows deep to line parts of the course.
Blessed with more-than favourable weather conditions, the Farringdon streets – which pass by RCUK Towers – were transformed into a hub of cycling.
Pro cycling remains an ever-popular lure, but the crowds were as noisy for the folding bike race which kicked off proceedings as they were for any of the races.
With Rapha’s H-Van among the stalls keeping the crowds occupied, the evening featured 11 events in total, with track bikes and Barclays hire bikes also on the billing.
Each is quite a spectacle in its own right – from the frantic folding bike race, which starts with a 30-metre dash before a tangle of arms and machines as riders unfold their bikes and get racing. In the true spirit of the race, shirts, waistcoats and bow ties were plentiful, and the racing fast and furious.
The Leigh Day Kermesse – the amateur criterium – was similarly well-contested, with Neon Velo’s celebrations on winning showing just how seriously the event is taken.
Crowds thronged to Smithfield Market and it cannot just have been people keen to get as far away from a certain boy band’s Wembley pop concert as possible – the bike parking filling up fast as the evening’s main events drew closer to prove as much.
Cow bells were distributed with the event programme: £4-a-pop for the latter. The mix of cow bells, music blared from the PA and the frenzied bashing of the sponsor boards by fans lining the final straight added to the atmosphere, and rose to a deafening crescendo by the time the elite men’s criterium began.
As ever, the Penny Farthing race drew much support – it’s not every day you see people going hell for leather on the old penny on a tricky criterium circuit.
And the elite racing, too, certainly lived up to its billing as two races filled with excitement for different reasons closed the show.
With the sun just set over London, the women’s race was fiercely contested as the lead changed hands regularly over the early part of the race before Nicola Juniper and Gabriella Shaw went clear – the former winning the sprint.
The men’s race meanwhile was paced by a lead group of four riders, with Team Raleigh frantically leading the chase behind having missed the break.
Olympic champion Ed Clancy, WorldTour stars Tyler Farrar and Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), Josh Edmondson and Chris Sutton (Team Sky) were among those on show as the pace increased and the noise followed suit.
And after jumping clear of the leading group on the final lap, Guernsey’s Tobyn Horton was roared down the finishing straight to victory.
With the Tour Series growing in popularity, and city and town centre criteriums gaining more exposure across the country, it can be hard to stand out.
But the London Nocturne’s winning formula makes an evening in the capital quite a spectacle, and with beautiful weather and hard racing playing their parts, it did not disappoint.
Missed this year’s event? Highlights will be on shown on Sky Sports 2 on Tuesday June 10 at 10pm, on Eurosport on Friday June 13 at 7.30pm and Channel 4 at 5.30am on Saturday June 14.