Well done to Mr Porter for laying on such a fantastic event in the London Nocturne on Saturday night. Returning for its 10th edition there was a new 1.6 kilometre course around the St Paul’s area of The City making for a tricky and technical circuit of ten bends.
This was a fun-filled event with plenty of diverse races to keep the whole family entertained. The crowd’s favourite was probably the Penny Farthing race - although a few tourists at St Paul's Cathedral were rather bemused by the goings on!
The folding bike race provided entertainment throughout the day with heats and a final as the 70 contestants were whittled down to 40. Business attire is required and jostling and heckling is encouraged! Unfortunately this led to skirmish too far as team LIOS came a cropper and suffered in the argy bargy. But all was not lost, as LIOS rider Aled Jones managed to claw his way back to the front of the pack and take the trophy for his war-veteran boss Steve McCulley. Hurrah!
The Concours d'Elegance demanded the opposite of the city ruffians: good manners and stylish riding. At stake was a £1,000 voucher from sponsor Mr Porter - actually the best prize of the day! As you can see there was a varied field, but the most gentlemanly, as far as we were concerned anyway, were the four cigar smoking chaps on tandems. The boys were not the quickest riders of the day, but dashingly doffed their caps en route to the delight of the crowds.
Boris bikes also got in on the act with the Santander hire bike race. Up for grabs was a year's free subscription to the cycle hire scheme. Riders got so carried away one was even spotted using the front basket as a makeshift time trial handlebar! What would the UCI say?
Don't worry - it wasn't all fun and games at the London Nocturne - there was some serious racing too with Eurosport broadcasting the Elite men's and women's races to 54 countries around the world. And ITV's Ned Boulting was on hand to provide the commentary and present the podium awards.
The serious stuff began with the Leigh Day criterium race for amateurs, but there was nothing amateur about the way they tackled the course, entertaining the crowds with some fiercely competitive racing around those tight bends. Ben Tullet, who we last featured at the Rapha Supercross, avoided crashing and romped home with first place in the City Criterium.
Next up was the fixed gear Mango Bikes Criterium which gave a chance for all those cycle couriers to show off their skills, fancy track bikes and tattoos. Again, some hair raising manoeuvring around this tricky course had the crowd enthralled. Final honours went to Alec Briggs.
The elite women's race was low on prize money but high in class with British champion Nicola Juniper showing off her National jersey and Drops cycling arriving with an intimidating team. Alice Barnes of Drops produced a dominant display when she went on a solo break that looked suicidal to start with, but she was so strong on the day that the decimated field behind her were unable to claw back her lead.
Onto the men's elite and, as the light faded, the arc lights were switched on, crowds grew and the atmosphere reached its peak with the whiff of strong beer and steak sandwiches grilling away in the Mr Porter garden. It looked like it was going to be a face off between a strong JLT Condor team fronted by last year's victor, Ed Clancy against Team Wiggins with Andy Fenn of Team Sky thrown into the mix. The way these guys tore up the Square Mile was absolutely thrilling as they powered through the bends. Eventually it was Chris Lawless of JLT Condor and Owain Doull of Team Wiggins (recently signed to Sky) who were able to open up a gap from the peloton. The two played cat and mouse in the final lap before battling it out in the finishing straight with an electric sprint finale won by Lawless.
What a fantastic cyclefest of an afternoon and evening in a great setting that made you proud to be a Londoner. The crowds, by now gorged on street food and drink and bikes, bikes, bikes, wound their weary and happy way home with fond memories of men in moustaches, towering penny farthings, city gents recklessly screaming round corners on fold-up bikes, fabulous dressing up and some extremely high quality bike racing. And that Alice Barnes: wow - one to watch out for!