'Nothing like the Nocturne atmosphere'

06 June 2017
What makes the City of London circuit so special?
2016_Circuit 880x450

There’s nothing quite like racing through the closed streets of London as the light fades and the crowds hammer the boards.

Don’t just take our word for it though, it’s no wonder Nocturne attracts top criterium riders with its intoxicating atmosphere and array of races.

This year is the second on the new race circuit – a 1.3km loop around the City of London with the start-finish line on Cheapside that features eight corners and will see riders fly past Bank and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Rebecca Charlton, now a respected cycling journalist and presenter, raced the first women’s Nocturne around the previous Smithfield circuit and even now, in her second cycling life, she cannot keep away.

“The crowd, when you come racing down that home straight, wherever you are in that field, there’s nothing like it,” she said.

“Everyone’s just banging the boards and the noise they make just spurs you on if you’re suffering – which you are in that field because the race is so intense.

“The crowds carry you through.

“The dark, the atmosphere, the lights, the noise, the music, there’s just nothing like it.”


While for Ed Clancy, three-time Olympic Champion and winner of the final race on the former Smithfield circuit at the 2015 Nocturne, the location and timing is key.

“Just being central in London, it’s unique. It’s not an easy thing to do to shut down central London, and with it being at night time then it inevitably creates a bit of a party atmosphere,” he said.

Michael Hutchinson, now an author and columnist for Cycling Weekly, competed at the Commonwealth Games and broke multiple time trial records in his career, but for him nothing beats the Nocturne.

“It’s a lovely event. You have the warm-up races, then as it starts to get dark and the elite racing starts it feels really intense because they’re doing it under lights,” he added.

“You hear them coming, they come round the corner and there’s such a sensation of speed and artistry and precision, and somehow that’s really enhanced when it’s happening at night – it’s hard to explain, it’s just something you have to come and see.

“There’s a sensation of speed, because the buildings are close to you and the roads are narrow and the crowd is really close.

“The buildings aren’t skyscrapers but they’re relatively tall, so there’s that feeling of riding through a canyon and the noise echoes off it – so as a rider you get this great atmosphere as well.”