Race all night

The Rapha Nocturne returns to London on Saturday 10th June. Open to all riders on all kinds of bikes over an iconic central London course, the Nocturne culminates in a full gas elite criterium race through the dark. On the startline will be some of the world’s best pro racers, including British favourites for the title Ed Clancy and Andy Tennant.

The elite race at Rapha Nocturne will see riders compete for 45 minutes plus three laps. Different in style to normal road racing, we asked Ed & Andy to explain criteriums in their own words.

EC: “Crit racing is town centre racing. It’s spectator friendly, riders pass every minute or two, so you really see the race unfold. It’s intense.”

AT: “It’s exhilarating and great for the fans watching, like track. The racing is fast and frantic, and it can change at a moment’s notice, whether from a crash or an attack out of a corner.”

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But the Rapha Nocturne is different to other crit races – nowhere else will you see the world’s fastest professional racers competing in a city centre at night.

EC: “It’s right in the heart of the capital, and it’s at night. You wouldn’t think that would make a difference other than changing the lenses in your glasses, but everything flies past in the dark. It’s like everything is going at four times normal speed. I race thousands of kilometres a year but this is the only race at night time.”

AT: “Night time dramatically increases the sensation of speed for riders and spectators. It’s another element to contend with, as the light conditions deteriorate during the race. It’s another challenge on top of usual racing. It ends up pitch black and you’re working on your memory from previous laps. You’ve got to try and stay at the front all the time – everyone’s fighting for corners. The city streets round Bank are quite narrow, it can be interesting.”

Nocturne

EC: “The crowd is great, it was three or four deep all the way round last time. The atmosphere was great.”

AT: “The Nocturne is easily the best crit in the UK – without a doubt. There’s an amazing party atmosphere, with it being an all day event. It’s like a velodrome on the streets. I love it. There’s not many sporting events where you’d see top class athletes up close like this, with Olympic champions competing on the street.”

Ed Clancy is a five time world champion with three Olympic gold medals, and a previous winner of the Nocturne. Andy Tennant is also a track veteran with a slew of world, European and national medals and titles. Both are close friends and have been teammates in the past, but the Rapha Nocturne sees them go head to head. How do they fancy their chances?

EC: “I won it a couple of years ago which was mega.”

AT: “JLT have quite a few strong sprinters. They’ll have more riders so I need to look at getting in a small move, play the numbers a bit. Ideally I want to get in a break without those guys. You have to take some risks to be successful.”

EC: “At the end of the day, he’s another rider.”

The Nocturne will also be visiting Copenhagen later in the year, where points will carry over for a series winner.

EC: “It’ll be different tactics if you’ve a guy up there on overall points. We’ve a load of good riders in our team, anyone could be at the sharp end. I love a road race, but I love crits more. I like the idea of a crit world championship. How good would an Olympic crit be?”

AT: “Tactics do come into play, with people watching and man marking. It’s still on the individuals though, which I think will make for interesting racing regardless.”