MORE than 10,000 spectators lined the streets of Newport, as Frenchman Matthieu Boulo raced to a solo victory in the tenth Newport Nocturne floodlit cycle race.
With three races, bands around the circuit and bars doing a lively trade, there was a carnival atmosphere in the small border town.
The evening began with the Schwalbe Women’s Nocturne. An early crash at the start of St Mary Street’s infamous cobbles took several riders down and created a split that most of the fallers were unable to recover from.
Light drizzle made more crashes inevitable and the previous Nocturne’s second placed rider, Hannah Walker was one of the victims. The strongest team on paper, Matrix-Vulpine took most of the lap prizes with Jo Tindley taking the Cost Queen of the Sprints jersey. However the team missed out on the podium places as Ktie Curtis of Wales sprinted to a narrow victory ahead of a recovered Walker.
The organisers always come up with something special for the middle of the programme and this time it was a Super Sprint one lap challenge. This comprised heats of 14 riders who were paced up until the last bend, where they sprinted the last 600m to the line. Matt Cronshaw of Team Giordana took a convincing victory in the final which is bound to have pleased the team, which is based near Stone.
Finally, under the glow of 24 industrial floodlights, the main event got under way. Despite arriving with a very strong team Raleigh weren’t expected to have things all their own way, with a young GB development squad on the line, together with NFTO led by past Nocturne winner Russ Downing and the sole representative from Rapha-Condor, circuit race expert and ex-National Champion Graham Briggs.
Downing was forced to wait as a team mate and Raleigh’s French ace Mathieu Boulo raced clear. It looked like a good tactical move until Boulo dropped his rival in the closing stages leaving Downing no time to make amends. Boulo time trialled to victory with Briggs taking second just ahead of Downing. The final highlight of the evening was when Boulo received his weight in beer weighed on a giant balance scale. The lightweight rider got a bonus when podium girls and commentator Hugh Porter added their weight to Boulo’s side and the Raleigh team car left looking a touch low at the rear.