Last Saturday, 6th June, saw a balmy evening in London’s historic Smithfield when a record 10,000 spectators turned out for the third annual Smithfield Nocturne. With some of the best riders in the UK set to do battle on the city streets, special guests included Sir Paul Smith and Belgian cycling legend, Johan Museeuw.
The Nocturne’s diverse programme of events kept the crowds well entertained. The Folding Bike race, featuring the now trademark ‘Le Mans’-style start, was the most keenly contested yet, with the top twenty riders in each of the two heats going forward to the 40-rider final. After a 30-metre dash and wearing office attire, competitors hared around the five laps of the course before Keith Henderson crossed for first place. A creditable mention should also go to Rapha’s very own Graeme Raeburn, a fast finishing second and surely the only man in London to own a Brompton autographed by Bradley Wiggins.
The Cycling Weekly Support Race saw a host of amateur cyclists testing themselves on the tight city circuit, while the Citihub Team Challenge led to a fierce relay battle, one eventually won by a team including Rapha’s very own John Cannings.
As twilight approached the action became more intense still. In the Elite Women’s race, the field quickly became strung out, with many riders finding the early pace too hot to handle. It was left to a select group featuring Dani King, Lucy Garner and Hannah Barnes to lead the race home, with Barnes getting the better of her two rivals in the final sprint.
Making its debut at the event was the fixed-wheel skid competition and London’s fixie community turned out in numbers to see who could pull the longest continuous skid along the finishing straight. There were some sterling efforts, with plenty of spills ensuring a raucous reception.
The climax of the event was, as ever, the Men’s Elite Criterium. With a field that boasted Olympic, world and national champions, the action was fast and furious, the riders racing for 1 hour and 5 laps, and at speeds of up to 45mph. On the close Smithfield circuit the crowd were treated to a thrilling race before Russell Downing of CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta secured victory. He was closely followed by Tony Gibb of Plowman Craven, with rising pro-tour star Ben Swift (Katusha) in third.
Reflecting on the event afterwards the Nocturne Series Director, James Pope, said: “The Smithfield Nocturne has been a key UK event for three years now. 2009 was bigger and better than ever before. Our spectator base just keeps growing and growing [and is] a real testament to how cycling is growing in London and the rest of the UK.” He continued: “It was great to see everybody enjoying something fresh, exciting and free in the capital. The races proved to be a spectacle once again and the Elite race couldn’t have been more thrilling.”