Rapha Nocturne leading crit racing boom
Ten years on from the first ever Nocturne, the cycling landscape in Great Britain has changed immeasurably.
With two British road world champions to boast of, two Tour de France winners and countless medals on the track, cycling is no longer a minority sport.
Last year British Cycling signed up its 125,000th member, the Tour de France came to Yorkshire in 2014 – leading to the Tour de Yorkshire legacy race – and the road World Championships are heading back to the county in 2019.
British domestic racing also continues to grow, with the Tour Series currently showcasing the best criterium racers in the country as they prepare for next month’s Rapha Nocturne.
And for Rapha founder and chief executive Simon Mottram, now was the perfect time to rekindle his company’s links with the unique London criterium.
“It’s amazing to be back with the Nocturne and taking it to the next level," he said.
“If you think back ten years, then it’s hard to remember what cycling was like. It was a very niche activity and not something that thousands and thousands of people came together to look at.
“So to look at the Nocturne back ten years ago, it was like people were coming out, all these people came out from the shadows who were secret cycling fans.
“About 5,000 of us came together and it was a coming out of cycling. Over the last ten years it has moved and progressed.
“So now to be back and to do it in a much bigger way, just feels completely right. We can combine racing and riding – ride all day and race all night.”
And for Chris Latham, of Team Wiggins, the growth of the sport has been particularly evident in his short cycling career.
The man from Bolton has come from a background on the track but is considered a bright prospect for the future on the road having already registered top ten finishes against WorldTour riders at last year’s Abu Dhabi Tour.
“Since I started cycling it has grown massively. I’ve been doing it about ten years and even in that small space of time it has grown massively,” said the world scratch race bronze medallist on the track.
“People say it’s like the new golf and it’s really good to see younger kids racing at the Rapha Nocturne, and the different kind of bikes, it gets everyone involved, so families can have a good day out.”
Rapha Nocturne is not just for elite riders, though, with races open to all abilities and all types of bikes.
This year will see the first ever women’s fixed gear crit around the 1.3km City of London circuit, with North London Thundercats Black Metal Bicycle Club’s Caroline Pulford excited by the recent growth in popularity of her chosen sport.
“So, going from being a spectator last year when they had a men and women combined race, this year we get out own – it’s fantastic," she said.
“I’ve been riding around London for six or seven years, going from commuting to riding fixed. Then riding fixed about London and last year I started racing doing crits, road and fixed.
“Road crit racing is becoming bigger and bigger, there is more exposure for it and the Rapha Nocturne is brilliant.”