Saturday 9 June 2012

IG Markets London Nocturne

For a full version of this write-up centred on the Rapha Women's Criterium race, click here.

Today is the 9th of June - and that means tonight is the night of the unique, spectacular and enormously popular IG Markets London Nocturne in which the best riders Britain has to offer go head-to-head with the best of the rest of the world.

The Parcours
The parcours (click the image to enlarge)
The races takes the simple, familiar criterium format that is so ideally suited to TV on a 1.05km circuit around Smithfield Market with the women racing for 30 minutes plus three laps from 20:45 (race programme here). They begin on Long Lane (51°31'7.61"N 0°6'5.29"W) at the Rotunda Garden, now a tranquil place among the insane London traffic but for centuries the site of public executions, then head south-west and follow the curve of the road as it leads for 237m to a tight right corner after onto Snowhill before an even tighter right 80m and mere moments later back onto Long Lane. After passing the Poultry Market on the left, they turn 90 degrees left into East Poultry Lane and under an 81m covered section (signs at both ends say "DEAD SLOW," but the riders won't be paying much attention to those) and then right again onto Charterhouse Street for a straight and almost flat 210m blast along the northern side of the Meat Market. Another 90 degree right turn takes them onto Lindsey Street, then 90m later they arrive at the last right turn back onto Long Lane to pass by the VIP area and pass the finish line to begin a new lap. To add to the fun, the race features the IG Speed of Execution Challenge a an alternative to intermediate sprints - timing chips fitted to each bike will measure the speed at which they cross the line after each lap, the fastest riders winning £500. For many of the riders, especially in the women's race, that's a lot of money: expect it to be hotly contested (it's also an excellent idea aimed at making the race more thrilling to those spectators who are watching the race simply because they happen to be in the area but don't follow the sport - exactly what cycling needs to gain new fans).

Profile - click to enlarge
This being one of the world's busiest cities, there is street furniture aplenty all along the parcours - it'll all be covered in thick padding, of course, but it still hurts if a rider hits it. One obviously hazardous point, especially on the first and last laps when a large number of riders are altogether and traveling at speed, is the intersection between Snowhill and Long Lane where riders are squeezed into a narrow section bending to the right: a place where it will be very easy to collide with the crowd barriers. An added danger, and one far harder to predict than street furniture, is diesel spills left by the hundreds of trucks that make deliveries to and pick up from the Meat Market - this is especially likely to be the case along Lindsey Street where riders will pass through the loading bays right after the corner (look for the painted "HQ" on the white wall to the left). If the roads are wet, diesel can be lethal. There are more loading bays all along Long Lane, making the Lindsey Street/Long Lane corner (by the brasserie) another potential dangerpoint. There's also a tricky bottleneck section just before arrival back at the Rotunda Garden where the footpath juts right out into the road, reducing the width of the road from 10m to 4m - if all the riders try to get through at the same time, there'll be problems.

Well, how about that? After nearly a week of rain and with another week of rain expected to start tomorrow, it looks as though Saturday is going to be dry and even quite warm at 20C - which will come as good news to the participants of the London Naked Bike Ride also taking place today. It'll be a little cooler this evening when the race kicks off, but since large cities remain a few degrees warmer than surrounding countryside and the buildings provide shelter from the wind around 16C can be expected during the women's race.

All points along the parcours are easily accessible and the event is free to watch. Obvious vantage points are the start line (especially due to the Speed of Execution Challenge), though large crowds will gather here (51°31'7.61"N 0° 6'5.11"W); the Snowhill/Long Lane corner (51°31'3.87"N 0° 6'16.84"W); the exit of East Poultry Lane (especially if the cafe over the road is open, 51°31'9.59"N 0° 6'10.61"W) and the Charterhouse Road/Lindsey Street corner (51°31'12.48"N 0° 6'0.86"W).

Channel 4 will be showing highlights of all the races - including the women's criterium, penny-farthing race and the longest fixie skid contest - in a 55-minute programme to be broadcast at 07:10 on Sunday the 17th, the first time they've covered cycling since they gave up the right to broadcast Tour de France coverage eleven years ago. Channel 4 is available via online streams around the world and the programme will be made available on their 4OD catch-up service.

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