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London calling: Nocturne time

Saturday saw the fifth running of the London Nocturne round the streets of the capital's Smithfield Market. There were a few big names (Matt Goss, Ian Stannard, Chris Sutton, Magnus Backstedt), Elite level crits for men and women, and some fun warm up events before that featuring fixies, penny-farthings, folding bikes and a devil.

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Ian Stannard leads Niklas Gustavsson, Kristian House and Davide Appolonio in the elite crit

All photos © Will Armitage and used with permission to myself

The first event I caught was the penny-farthing race in all its awesomeness and mild preposterousness. The sight of these flying round the course is remarkable and scary - I don't know how they take the bends at speed and falling from that height can't be something you want to happen. Making it even more fun the riders get into the spirit with at least one handlebar 'tache and some retro clothing including a pith helmet.

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(As I headed home I was very pleased to see this last chap squeezing his penny-farthing onto a train at Hammersmith station. Everyone else seemed quite oblivious to what was going on.)

After the penny-farthings it was a devil-take-the-hindmost race with 12 riders (including Ian Stannard and Brett Lancaster) and the one who was at the back pack being eliminated every second lap. The pace was furious with Stannard driving it along at the front and distancing his last competitor on the back straight - afterwards he rolled back to the Sky pit area nonchalantly as though nothing had happened.

A longest-skid competition followed (which I missed) then it was the Le Mans style folding bike race. This is a bit of a signature of the Nocturne and involves the competitors sprinting to their folded bikes, assembling them then completing five laps of the course. Shirt and tie are obligatory. By the time the race got round to me one chap was in the lead chased by a small peloton with a whole load of other riders strung out further behind. His lead was gnawed away at but he just hung on to win.

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The ladies were up next. Apparently the organisers had tried to drop the elite women's cirterium but in the face of an outcry reinstated it. Sadly the depth of the field wasn't great with quite a few racers were dropped before the first lap was over. But upfront there was some exciting racing with a group of twenty or so splitting and regrouping before coming down to five or so in the last lap only for Hannah Barnes to show them why she's the national champ with a convincing win.

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Hannah Barnes before the start and in action; Elizabeth Chittenden chased by Helen Wyman

Meanwhile the elite men were getting ready...

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Kristian House; Matt Goss; Chris Sutton

Then they were off. Pretty quickly a group of four escaped the pack: Stannard and Appolonio for Sky, House for Rapha-Condor-Sharp and Gustavsson for UK Youth. They gradually built their lead - with help I suspect of Sutton and RCS at the front of the chasing group - and were in sight of the back of the bunch before Stannard and House pulled away to gain a lap. The bunch let them race through before Stannard put in a dig to get to the line with a small gap, his second victory for the night.

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Then it was over. A fun evening and always enjoyable when cycle racing takes over a small part of London. If you want to see more photos (or larger version of the ones above) they're on my flickr site

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