Hordes of willing participants crowded the Imbibe bar in London this weekend, eager to either compete on the Rollapaluza rollers or cheer for the athletes on stage in this new form of entertainment that Rollapaluza have pioneered over the last seven years.
Rapha had devised two competitions, the main event of the night, the team event made up of a collection of cycling clubs, charity, courier and bankers teams and also a "have a go hero" event for which Rollapaluza set up a set of rollers in the beer garden for all-comers to try and set a time to qualify to get a moment of glory on the main stage in front of the capacity crowd.
In the male team event, the action started early and the times were fast from the word go, Huw Watkins of London Dynamo, the first rider, set a time of 21.03 over the standard Rollapaluza distance of 500m, a time that would have been good enough for the win in some previous Rollapaluza events.
Times just got faster and experienced Roller racers such as London Couriers Jos and Charlie soon realised that their usual places in the closing rounds were far from guaranteed. Possibly the most anticipated event that Rollapaluza have taken part in, most of the pre-race gossip had been about rising track sprint star Pete Mitchell, down to ride for Brighton's team Terminator. Pete didn't disappoint breaking the Rollapaluza record with his first ride in a time of 19.78 seconds this was to be the fastest time of the night but that didn't mean the competition was over.
Male competitors who didn't auto-qualify had to suffer a repecharge round in order to continue their hunt for glory and progress into the knockout rounds. In the knockout rounds despite some very close racing three clear favourites emerged Pete, Ian from team La Fuga and reigning London Courier Rollapaluza champion Charlie riding for the Moving Target team with steadily improving John from Kingston Wheelers as good outside bet.
In the end the top two qualifiers held form through to the final which according to Rollapaluza tradition was over 1km, according to this traditoion the riders aren't told of the extra distance until a few seconds before the start. Both racers followed the same tactics of a fast but steady start then increasing speed halfway then an all out sprint at the end, it was only in the last 100m that Pete clearly pulled away from Ian to win by half a second with 43 seconds dead��
The Women's team event was well attended and possibly even more popular with the crowd. As with the male event it would be the two fastest qualifiers who would end up in the final. Agata, a London courier riding for the Trixie Chix (a collective of women and girls who do tricks on fixed wheel bikes, play bike-polo and throw parties) and Kimbers of London Dynamo who had brought her own vocal fan club with her. In an incredibly tight final Agata just took it, much to the delight of her courier friends in the audience, the cheers were deafening.
The eight fastest "have a go heroes" qualified for the knockout rounds and this time there were some upsets, Andy beat his supposed faster qualifier and when there was a no show for one of the racers a brave (non-male) Emma stepped in to fill the void and set a time of 24.86. Emma normally rides for the Fireflies team, this time would have given her second place, so they must be kicking themselves for not selecting her. Janky James a Rollapaluza CC member looked like an outsider but got faster in every round eventually taking the win from Andy Cassons who had also improved in every round but chose the final to start to slow!
The four fastest "Have-a-go-heroines" took to the stage in front of the cheering masses and it was Rachel, who had been the clear favourite after qualifying who beat Priscilla by a hefty margin of three seconds.
With the unmistakable microphone styles of both Patrick Field and Buffalo Bill keeping the audience informed and entertained, burlesque podium girls, eclectic DJs, late bar and of course the Rapha boutique offering up exclusive Rapha gear at superb prices it was an excellent event and a huge success.
For more info on Rollapaluza, roller-racing and details of forthcoming events as well as all previous results, reports and photos visit: www.rollapaluza.com