Following the success of the inaugural Smithfield Nocturne last year the second edition was even better, partly because it was free from the monsoon downpour of 12 months ago, partly because the crowds were bigger and partly because of the quality of the field.
A packed evening of racing around the historic meat market in central London, began at and ended five hours later following the Elite Criterium race which boasted such stars as Geraint Thomas and his world record holding team pursuit colleague Ed Clancy, along with the best circuit racing talent Britain has to offer. For the thousands of spectators the Rapha Condor sponsored event was all free to watch.
Following the finals of the Inter Schools challenge came the main support race of 40 minutes (plus 5 laps) which was won by Douglas Dewey (Team Tor 2000) who showed his strength by leading from the front.
Next up was a new event in the shape of the Corporate Challenge in which teams of city slickers paid big bucks for the privilege of racing round the circuit. Organised in teams of four, each rider did two laps then swung off to let their colleague take over. For teams who were prepared to pay a little extra (well a grand, in fact) they could buy in ‘ringers’ to make the job a bit easier. Team Lloyd and Partners (with additional backing from La Fuga) ‘bought in’ three top riders: Dean Downing, Ross Muir and Ian Holt. Needless to say they won, with the backer saying it was “money well spent” to get a spot on the podium and the proceeds went the Lord Mayor’s Appeal 2008.
Back down to earth and it was time for the All Star Race – an event for members of the media – so not much chance of any money being thrown about here! The winner was Ben Wilson, narrowly edging out Matt Seaton of the Guardian.
Perhaps the most entertaining event of the evening was the Halfords Cycle2Work Folding Bike Race which involved men in suits (and shorts) running ‘Le Mans style’ to their folders and then hacking round the 1km long closed road circuit. The racing was pretty quick and if you ever needed an advert for why cycling to work was a good idea, then this was it. The winner received a slick Dahon foldable which is one of only two in the country.
With the rain holding off it was time for the main event, the Elite Criterium (1 hour plus 5 laps). Mark Cavendish (a double stage winner in the recent Giro d’Italia) was spotted in the hospitality area before the start but was only there as a spectator. His countryman and Giro finisher Geraint Thomas, however, was there to race and any notions that it may be an exhibition event by the Barloworld rider went out the window after a few laps when the Tanking Thomas led a small breakaway including Rob Hayles, Dean Downing and Simon Richardson. The group stayed away for the entire race and the rain stayed away for most of it, although when the roads did become greasy it did nothing to slow down the train. With London now in darkness (and photographers cursing darkly) the 22 year old Welshman (the youngest finisher in last year’s Tour de France) took the sprint ahead of Rob Hayles (Team Halfords Bikehut), with Graham Briggs (Rapha-Condor-Recycling) taking the final podium spot.