By Robbie Broughton
Last week saw the inaugural P&P World Cycling Revival event at Herne Hill Velodrome. Spread over three days, it was not only a true celebration of cycling with derny races, a penny farthing hour record attempt and a Brompton invitational, but visitors could enjoy bars, betting, live music, a fun fair, a cycling museum and bike polo.
Billed as cycling’s answer to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, founder John Postlethwaite explained that, “I felt cycling was missing a truly wonderful hospitality event and that we live in a society where many of us hanker after the simpler days of our youth when computer games, mobile phones and cyber bullying did not exist.”
The highlight for many was the Brompton ’48 Invitational, so-called to mark the 1948 Olympics that were held at this iconic venue. 48 riders including commentator Ned Boulting, ex pro David Millar and a younger generation of pro riders like Germain Burton (son of former National Champion Maurice) set off in two heats of 24 riders before contesting the final.
With a Le Mans-style running start to their folded, special edition, Chapter 3 Bromptons which feature a titanium frame, some struggled to find their numbered bikes from the phalanx of identical bikes on the grid. Speaking exclusively to Ride Velo, ITV Tour de France commentator Ned Boulting recounted how Germain Burton, now riding for JLT Condor, ran to the wrong bike twice before finding the right one.
But this was a serious race with one of the biggest pots of prize money in British cycling up for grabs. The £10,048 on offer to the victor is twice as much as some of these riders earn from their sponsors in an entire year. Make no mistake, every rider out there was taking this seriously resulting in a fair amount of physicality, argy-bargy and elbows – the final had to be neutralised at one point because of a crash and a former Lotto Soudal rider departed with a broken collar bone.
While Ned reckoned he escaped humiliation without being dropped first, the winner in the end was Alec Briggs from Specialized Rocket Espresso. Ronan McLaughlin, who came 4th said, “The final was hectic. Super fast. At one point we hit 59kph.”
Meanwhile on Thursday evening round-the-world record holder, Mark Beaumont attempted to break the 127 year old Hour record on a Penny Farthing. Set in 1886 by WA Rowe at Hampden Park in Massachusetts, Beaumont’s target was 22 miles and 150 yards. Sadly for the Scotsman he was half a lap down, some 0.7% short. He did however succeed in breaking the British record set by BW Attlee in 1891 at the very same venue. He vowed to be back again next year for another crack at the World Record.
Graeme Obree, another former Hour Record holder was also on hand with a replica of his bike, Old Faithful, which he famously put together with parts of his washing machine.
Then on Saturday we witnessed, for the first time, the Oxford and Cambridge Varsity Track Match as the two oldest university cycling clubs in the world went head to heading in a men’s and women’s combined track race. Oxford took the honour in both the men and women’s race. Poor old Cambridge Women were only able to field three riders to Oxford’s four, who pipped them by under a second.
It was great to witness some Japanese keirin racing and have a flutter with some pool betting. Condor had built some authentic steel framed bikes similar to those used by Tom Simpson in the 50’s with authentic Japanese components - every rider competed on identical machines.
With penny farthing bike polo, great food and drink, spectators dressed to the nines in vintage clothing, stalls and a fantastic exhibition from the National Cycle Museum and racing on the track as a centrepiece and focus, the World Cycling Revival is a great day out and we can’t wait for its return next year.