John, I’ve just read your piece on the blog. It’s interesting how my impression of the event is so different in many respects to yours.
Ian Why and me were marshalling the event and were on site from 4.00 pm. We were allocated a great spot at the top corner on the finishing straight. There was a good crowd on this corner and all along the finishing straight from the start of the evening. The coffee vendor behind us provided us with great entertainment apart from good coffee. He was quite a character.
The Regional race which was the first event was well contended and certainly entertained the largely non cycling crowd around us. There was a really nasty crash on the finish line towards the end of the race. One rider was taken by ambulance to hospital. This all resulted in the race being neutralised for some time until the ambulance left and the debris was cleared from the course.
The couriers race was certainly no great spectacle. No one really knew what was happening and I was told that some riders had displayed a really bad attitude. I understand that it was accidental that one of the couriers injured the organiser who was also sent to hospital by ambulance. I would agree the evening would be better off without the couriers race but Rapha, who sponsor the event have a huge clientelle in the courier ranks. It certainly needs to be changed for next year though.
The All Star race was definitely a misnoma. The participants were cycling press journalists. Some names would be known to avid readers. Quite a good race though.
From where I was, the only time when the crowds vanished was when the typhoon struck. Ian and I held out as long as possible but even we had to abandon ship and take refuge under the glass awning around Smithfield Market. One of our main duties was to stop anyone going under this canopy but anarchy reigned when it rained. The no go area was chokablok.
The folding bike race got under way once the rain had eased to a force 10 storm and this race was really exciting. All of the business types in the event rode hard and fast. Suits were ruined but all were clearly lapping up the excitement of the event. I don’t know how they all stayed on their bikes. Small wheels are not designed for cornering at speed. I am told that one rider did a 360′ spin and in doing so, his bike came undone in the middle. He just put his foot down, clipped the bike together again and carried on. The winner received a Dahon folding bike as a prize and had certainly earned it.
The main race was the Elite Criterium. Some of the best riders in the country (and beyond). This was truly exciting when Warrick Spence attacked in the opening lap and stayed away for 40 of the 60 minutes of the race. The crowd clapped and cheered every time he came by. You didn’t have to be a cyclist to know that his effort was exceptional.
Unfortunately for him, with the speed of the race resulting in the peloton splitting. A really good working group took up the chase and Warrick was caught in the closing laps. He ended up being 4th but was still the spectators favourite.
Robert Elms from BBC Radio London did much of the commentary and the event was broadcast live on the radio for some of the time. Great publicity for the sport. Robert is a regular cyclist and was clearly enjoying the event.
The location of the event was super. Smithfield Market and the numerous bars and restaurants providing a splendid backdrop and atmosphere. Certainly, the event needs some tweeking for next year. That’s to be expected. I thought it to be a success and look forward to going next year.