As the world of cycling set out on a little trip around France in pursuit of a yellow jersey, another cycling event had one pocket of the Scottish cycling set entertained for an evening. The Edinburgh Nocturne came to the cobbled streets of the Grassmarket for the second year, as part of a series of races also staged in London and Brighton.
The evening comprised of a number of races, taking in the excruciatingly steep and poorly-surfaced Victoria Street, before haring down George IV Bridge and swinging round Greyfriar’s Bobby. The entire loop might only be 1.3 miles, but it’s one of the toughest criterium courses in the country.
A criterium consists of lapping the course for a set length of time, then on expiry of that time a further designated number of laps. For the elite riders, as darkness began to fall, this meant an hour of circuit-after-circuit before a five lap sorting out.
Tactics play out over the entire length of the race, and so it proved with Scottish rider Evan Oliphant (riding for Endura Racing) heading out into the lead on his own after about half an hour. Kristian House of Rapha-Condor had sat in the main bunch which let Oliphant escape, before launching his own attack, and as the hour came and went he had been seen to gradually reel in the man out front, work with him for a couple of laps, before powering off on his own, and managing to stay ahead of the chasing pack for victory. Oliphant came home third, with the two main attackers of the evening being split by Aussie Cameron Meyer (who finished third last year).
While it’s always exciting to see top pros competing up close (and many making the cobbles up Victoria Street look flat, and the gradient level) perhaps the most entertaining part of the evening is the folding bike race.
Here competitors, dressed in ‘business’ attire (though the rules on this are fairly relaxed given most work cycling shoes to attach to clipless pedals), start Le Mans style, with their bikes folded 20 metres away from them. After the initial run and unfolding carnage there follows three laps of the circuit, with the riders here proving no less committed than the big-wheeled standard bike competitors.
But the night isn’t just about the racing. The atmosphere on the Grassmarket on a Saturday night is usually boisterous, but that never spills over into trouble at the event (save for a few who always try to spoil it for everyone), and for cyclists there is a true carnival atmosphere that the morning commute by bike just doesn’t provide. Here they can compete in timed trackstand competitions, or race of staic roller bikes.
The numbers in the crowds actually seemed a little down on last year – though a clash with the first day of the Tour, as well as a Spanish world cup quarter final, might have had something to do with that. Everyone who went will simply be hoping that it comes back for a third year in 2011, and I might personally be convinced to take part in the folding race again after sitting it out this year…