While the Shropshire Star Newport Nocturne is an important event for any UK Elite road racer, for two brothers, it’s the event they want to win most. Both 30 year-old Ian Holt and his younger brother, Simon,19, have grown up dreaming of a win in what is their home race.
Until this year, it’s been Ian who has come closest, with heroic performances in the last three events that enthralled the huge partisan crowd. A mixture of bad luck, nerves and over exuberance, however, have meant that a podium place eluded him each time. Promoter Nick Jeggo said: “Ian once told me that winning the Nocturne would be like winning a World Championship for him. He never normally suffers from nerves but on the start line at the Nocturne he’s always shaking.”
Simon, meanwhile, watched from the barriers as his own cycling career blossomed. Then in 2005, his strong performances as a 17 year-old led to him being granted a special dispensation to ride the Nocturne. The event saw him line up, not only with his brother, who had led the National Circuit Series for much of the year, but also with six World and Olympic medallists. The youngster put up an admirable performance, only fading in the last few laps.
That was 2005, and two years is a long time in cycling. Simon now rides for Recycling.co.uk, one of Britain’s top teams, while Ian’s season has been blighted by a recurrent back injury. Consequently, Simon now has the upper hand, and he is currently in the top ten of the National Circuit Series. Ian, though struggling for form, has by no means given up hope of finally winning the Nocturne. He recently flew to Italy for some intensive training and capped the trip off with an impressive ride in the gruelling 129 mile Gran Fondo Pinarello.
So, what will happen when the brothers’ paths cross in their favourite event? Asked about the prospect of racing against his big brother, Simon said “I’ve always looked up to Ian, he’s the reason I got into cycling. I’d love to see him win the Nocturne, but of course it’s my dream too. Plus, I have responsibilities to my team, especially since my team leader, Chris Newton, won the last Nocturne. If Ian was ahead of the field I would be obliged to chase, it wouldn’t be fair on the sponsor or the other members of the team if I let Ian go. However, my attitude to Ian won’t be different to any other rider, I won’t be riding to beat Ian, I’ll be riding to beat everybody!”
For the older Holt brother, things are somewhat simpler. Ian rides for the small Felt Racing team and team orders are unlikely to be an issue. Ian said “We are a new team and our sponsor just wants the bikes to be noticed. So long as I ride aggressively and put the product out there, they’re happy. I still want to win in Newport but realistically, for this year at least, Simon has the better chance. If Simon is in with a chance of the win I’ll do everything I can to help him.”
To find out who comes out on top in the “battle of the brothers”, be in Newport High Street for The Shropshire Star Newport Nocturne. Britain’s only floodlit bike race starts at 6.45pm on Saturday, September 1. See www.bikerace.co.ukfor details.