Some 10,000 people are expected to line the streets surrounding London’s historic Smithfield Market this Saturday (June 9) for the 2012 London IG Nocturne.
Riders from cycling’s elite WorldTour and the cream of the domestic circuit will tackle the 1.1km circuit in the show-closing elite men’s criterium.
Multiple Paralympic and world paracycling champion, Sarah Storey, will headline the elite women’s race, held directly before the men’s event.
We walked the 1.1km circuit with event director, James Pope, who has secured the entry of 2011 Milan-San Remo winner, Matt Goss, among other big names, including Team Sky’s Ian Stannard, fresh from the Giro d’Italia.
We asked Pope to identify the key areas in which the race could be decided.
Long Lane/West Smithfield
The race starts on Long Lane, which as the name suggests, offers a long drag from the start line to the first sharp corner at Snow Hill. The race typically begins with the peloton slowly warming up before attacks begin at around 10 laps in, says Pope. Alex Dowsett tore up convention last year by attacking from the start and securing a memorable win. Will anyone seek to repeat his tactic this year?
“The teams will be trying to gauge whether a break can go away. It’s so fast straight away. The British pros are so good at crit racing because it’s what they do in this period of the year between May and July. They’re going so fast it’s difficult for riders to break away, but because it’s a technical circuit, riders can use the corners to their advantage.”
Snow Hill – turn one
The fastest part of the course leads directly to the slowest as the riders brake for the super tight right hander at Snow Hill. The entry is on a slight downhill and riders sprinting over the start-finish line for the IG Speed of Execution prize, a £500 prize for the rider who records the evening’s top speed, will suddenly find themselves braking hard. “It’s just over ninety degrees and it’s on a slight camber, so it’s a tight corner. If it’s wet, this is where they could crash quite easily,” says Pope.
Snow Hill – turn two
A short, downhill straight leads to another 90 degree corner, this time on a slope and with a cobbled surface in the middle of the road. Pope warns: “This is probably the most dangerous corner on the circuit. If riders don’t take the race line correctly and go up on the cobbles, they could come a cropper.”
The exit from this tight corner could have a significant influence on the race. “This is where a technical rider who can take corners well will be able to earn themselves a few metres every time they take the bend and that could make the difference in the race,” says Pope. He identifies Rapha Condor Sharp’s Dean Downing among those to watch in the circuit’s technical sections.
East Poultry Avenue
The riders leave West Smithfield by turning sharp left into East Poultry Avenue, which, with Grand Avenue, is the second of the two covered areas. Unlike Grand Avenue, East Poultry won’t be used as a rider waiting area and will be open to the public. Watching the riders under the market lights could be a thrilling experience (additionally, six floodlit areas will be staged to light the circuit for Channel Four’s television cameras. “The thing I love about East Poultry is the sign that says, ‘Dead Slow’ just as the riders are nailing it,” says Pope.
The riders exit East Poultry into a sweeping right hand bend and a road surface that rises to accommodate the Cross Rail project being built beneath. This is Charterhouse street, aka the back straight, and the venue for the pro team pits. Riders will use the back straight to position themselves for the forthcoming sprint for the start finish line in just two corners time. A crash ensued last year as riders perhaps distracted by team orders shouted from the pits collided with riders moving through the bunch in a bid to position themselves for the crucial final corners before the start-finish straight, said Pope. “You need to get yourself in that first five along Charterhouse Street. If it goes down to a sprint, there’s no way anyone will be able to win if they’re not in that top five by this penultimate corner.”
A short stretch of road entered from an extremely sharp corner from Charterhouse Street and exited from a wider, sweeping turn back into Long Lane and the start-finish straight.
Autograph hunters may wish to position themselves near the Charterhouse Bar, to catch the riders as the exit the sign on area. West Smithfield will host a Rollapalluza event, a Rapha café, and a display of vintage bikes among other stalls. The riders will wait to race under Grand Avenue, and the podium will be mounted opposite West Smithfield on Long Lane. Pope advises visitors to circulate and see all that the accompanying ‘festival’ has to offer, before picking a good spot to watch the elite races.