THE UK’s original floodlit cycle race is set to return this Saturday.
The Newport Nocturne was established in 1989 and takes place every two years. Past events have featured Mark Cavendish, Sean Kelly, David Millar, Geraint Thomas and Ed Clancy.
The event takes place in the small market town of Newport, Shropshire, but routinely draws crowds of up to 15,000.
The atmosphere invoked by the night time setting was a hit from day one, and now bars and restaurants do a bumper trade as the numerous bands situated around the course entertain the throngs.
The floodlit formula has been emulated of late but the organisers have kept their magic by the introduction of unique features. There have been races for retired pro riders, one lap time trials for Olympians, Derny (motorcycle) paced races and every male winner gets his weight in beer measured on a giant balance scale.
The 1.2 mile circuit takes just two minutes per lap and much of the interest centres around cobbled St Mary Street. The smooth cobbles are challenging at the best of times, but in the rain they become treacherous. In wet weather the crowd tends to migrate to the sharp turn from High Street onto this section to watch the action.
This year’s event has attracted the mighty Team Raleigh, led by past winner Ian Superman Wilkinson and World Madison Champion Morgan Kneisky. A strong challenge is likely to come from another past winner, Russ Downing of NFTO. Downing is still smarting after controversially being left out of the team’s Tour of Britain squad, despite the fact that he took fourth place in the Commonwealth Games and 10th in the Ride London Classic.
The last Nocturne introduced a race for women, to acclaim from both fans and riders. The race is being repeated this year and there’s a strong line up featuring Penny Rowson and Jo Tindley of Matrix-Vulpine and Hannah Walker of Epic-WRT.
Riders in the men’s race cycle for 45 minutes plus five laps, with cash prizes for each lap. The women’s race takes 30 minutes plus five laps.
There has been a huge upsurge in interest in cycling, generated by two recent Tour de France winners and the Tour’s visit to Yorkshire this year. With the sport at an all-time high, the organisers are expecting a bumper turn out.
The Nocturne starts at 6.30pm, with racing running up until 10pm. For more information see www.bikerace.co.uk.