For 2016, the organisers of the London Nocturne (aka the Smithfield Nocturne), moved it from its previous course around Smithfield market, and closer into the City of London on a new circuit set between St Paul’s Cathedral, Bank tube station and the Guildhall. As a result, the course was flatter without the slight drag that the previous one had, but arguably the roads are better, and there was certainly a good crowd – especially near the start/finish.
However what was not better was the atmosphere. The great thing about the old Smithfield course was that there were a large number of bars and pubs around the market itself. All of these were open, often serving food and drink especially for the Nocturne crowd. That was not the case in the city. The problem is that most venues in the City are closed at weekends, and for the most part, they didn’t open specially for the visit of the Nocturne.
A cynic would note that the VIP and hospitality areas were significantly larger, and well catered for. But the businesses that seemed to do best from these criterium circuit races were Tesco and Co-Op, both doing good business in alcohol sales.
The atmosphere notwithstanding, the circuit was fast, and it had improved television coverage with Eurosport broadcasting live on the night, and significantly more fixed camera positions as well as a the motorbike.
We arrived in time for the Penny Farthing race, which was followed by the folding bike race – which came down to head to head on the line. I couldn’t help notice that these races appeared a bit shorter than preivously.
The main events were the men’s and women’s criterium races. The women’s race kicked off, and quickly broke apart with a group of leading riders gaining a significant advantage early on. From the breakaway, Alice Barnes managed to get clear and she soloed the last few laps to an excellent and very comfortable win.
The men’s race also broke apart early on, not helped by a crash within the first couple of laps. Most of the big hitters were at the front of the race, but I noticed Ed Clancy had to chase hard to get back into the main group of contenders. Over the course of the race, the group thinned out a bit, and eventually a pair of riders – Owain Douall and Chris Lawless – got away. Their gap extended to about 30 seconds and held there. For a while it looked like the race could come back together, but they held on with Lawless winning a sprint on the line.