Saturday brings us the London Nocturne, a race that bills itself as “Britain’s best night-time criterium” and which, since the first edition in 2007, has grown every year to become one of the most popular events on the domestic calendar.
“I love the Nocturne events, the crowds and the atmosphere are unbeatable!” – five-time winner Hannah Barnes
The races takes the simple, familiar criterium format that is so ideally suited to TV on a technical seven-corner 1.1km circuit around historic Smithfield Market. The Women’s Crit is open to E/1/2/3/4 category riders and takes place for 30 minutes plus three laps from 20:50; the prize fund is £1000 – which seems low for an established event nowadays, but is equal to the prize fund on offer in the Elite Men’s race. Look further down this page for the start list and more information.
The start line is on Long Lane (51°31’7.61″N 0°6’5.29″W) at the Rotunda Garden on Long Lane, now a tranquil place among the insane London traffic but for centuries the site of public executions; probably the most famous person put to death at this spot was William Wallace, inspiration for the film Braveheart, who was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1305. Right from the start, the road is peppered with a large number of drain covers, many of them made smooth by the tyres of the heavy trucks that make visits to the famous Markets day and night. Many of these drain covers are not level with the road surface; in the dry they cause uncomfortable jolting through the handlebars, in the wet they can be lethally slippery.
The parcours is very flat with only approximately 6m of climbing along the entire route (“Smithfield” was originally Smoothfield, referring to the flat fields that preceded the buildings and made it the ideal place to trade livestock eight centuries ago, which gave rise to the meat market). Gradients are no higher than 3.5%
After 110m the road bends to the left (1st Corner, with a blue placemarker, on our map) and becomes Smithfield Street, bending more as it reaches a derelict one-storey brick building on the right. 82m later is the first technical corner (2nd Corner), a sharp right onto Snowhill; 74m after that is a technical right-hander (3rd Corner) onto West Smithfield Road – the short section joining the two is narrow and curves to the right with cobbles on the left, which means that a lone rider or small breakaway group can get through faster than a peloton and thus gain a small amount of time. The riders now enter a fast straight section, passing under a canopy covering the road between opposite buildings before rejoining Long Lane. 176m after the bend, by the Poultry Market on the left, they turn 90 degrees left (4th Corner) into East Poultry Avenue and under an 81m covered section (signs at both ends say “DEAD SLOW,” but the riders won’t be paying much attention to those).
When they emerge back into the open air, the riders turn into the relatively easy 5th Corner (though the white markings on the road at the turn can be slippery, especially when it’s been raining and one of the trucks that make deliveries under the covered section has spilled diesel), a right onto Charterhouse Street. This section is 100m long and has a wide selection of bars and cafes and is one of the most popular parts of the parcours with the spectators, who line the streets to watch the riders accelerate towards the next corner. The 6th Corner, another right-hander leading onto Lindsey Street, doesn’t look like much on the map; however, there are a number of hazards here that make it technical – there are three drain covers positioned so as to be all but unavoidable for riders on the left as they begin to turn into the corner and some roughly-patched sections of tarmac followed by more drain covers just around the apex of the corner on the right. The local cycle couriers treat it with respect, and there have been crashes in the race on this corner in past editions.
Lindsey Street is 90m long and straight, making it another fast section of the parcours. The left side of the road is generally the safer option as there are more loading bays – and thus, the potential for diesel patches – along the right. At the far end is a pedestrian crossing and several rough patches leading into the 7th Corner, with space limited by a traffic island (there’s another drain cover just by the island, in the path of riders on the left) as the riders turn right to rejoin Long Lane. 85m from the turn is a pinchpoint, which if the race ends with a bunch finish favours riders who remained at the front of the group coming around the final corner; then the finish line is 30m ahead.
The Nocturne is a festival of cycling, and the Women’s Criterium is only a part of it. There’s also the Men’s Criterium as well as races for penny-farthings, folding bikes and hired “Boris Bikes” and a lot more. The full programme is here.
|Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours Int.||Bikepure-Lemond-Velotech||Bonito Squadra Corse||Boomcycle|
|Katie Archibald||Paige Milward||Elanor Cadzow||Hisayo Kaneko|
|Gabriella Shaw||Anna-Marie Hughes||Darelle Parker|
|Charline Joiner||Lucy Harper|
|Lauren Creamer||Francesca Morgans-Slader|
|Ciara Horne||Hester Stembridge|
|CC London||De Vere Cycles||East Street Cycles||Epic-Scott|
|Vivienne Martin||Abbie Dentus||Lucy Chittenden||Hannah Walker|
|Fusion RT||High Wycombe CC||Les Filles||London Dymano|
|Emily Nelson||Rose Osborne||Clare Gillot||Claire Richardson|
|Gillian Taylor||Nicole Oh||Tracy Corbett|
|Helen Ralston||Jennifer Crouch|
|Nicole Engelbach||Maeve Savage|
|London Phoenix||Matrix-Vulpine||RP Racing||RST|
|Mhairi Mackenzie||Helen Wyman||Laura Cheesman||Annasley Park|
|Harriet Owen||Grace Garner|
|SPEG Project 51||Starley-Primal||Merlin Cycles||Mulebar Girl-Sigma Sport|
|Dani Christmas||Eileen Roe||Alexandra Sheehan||Wiesa Kuczaj|
|Tanya Griffiths||Natalie Creswick|
|Hayley Edwards||Adel Tuson-Bloor|
|Jennifer Taylor||Emily Barnes|
|Katie Curtis||Clemence Copie|
|Team WNT||Trek Coventry||Twickenham CC||Velosport-Pasta Montegrappa|
|Victoria Williams||Maxine Filby||Emma Towers||Jasmine Dotti|
|Sam Burman||Laura Greenhalgh||Claire Thomas|
|Mathilde Pauls||Lydia Boylan|
|WyndyMilla-Reynolds||Braintree Velo||Wiggle-Honda||Echelon Rotor|
|Rebecca Carter||Clover Murray||Amy Roberts||Nikki Juniper|
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Attempting to drive to the race would be mad – traffic in central London is horrible at the best of times, never mind when workers are going home and there’s a major cycling race going on. Fortunately, Smithfield is easily reached on the Underground with Barbican and Farringdon (both on the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines) only a couple of minutes’ walk from the parcours. Farringdon also has links to the Network Rail routes, connecting it to the rest of the country.
A one-hour highlights show will be broadcast after the race – the Women’s Crit hasn’t had much of a look-in in previous editions, getting only a few minutes while the rest of the airtime was given to the men. With the unprecedented success of the Women’s Tour and Century TV/ITV4’s decision to increase coverage of the women’s Matrix Tour Series, this will hopefully change for the better this year.
Sky Sports 2: Tuesday 10th June, 10pm
Eurosport: Friday 13th June, 7.30pm
Channel 4: Saturday 14th June, 5.30am