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This weekend we were invited along to the Blackpool Nocturne by the great people at FACE who organise the Nocturne Series around the country and also Revolution at the Manchester Track. Arriving on a fresh breezy night Dave, Bruce (Dave’s Dad) and I found our way to the VIP tent and I began proceedings with a nice cold beer.

After settling in, Dave who was racing in the support race went to warm up and I was persuaded to enter myself for the Cycle Hire Challenge which involved racing around the track on one of the Blackpool City hire bikes.

Now coming from a carbon race bike these are quite something…32mm tyres, a front basket, hub gears and a hub dynamo to run the in-built LED lights not forgetting the centre stand.

Seen here in all their beauty:

After some precise saddle height adjustment of “that’ll do, there’s free beer waiting” (it didn’t really matter as riding a bike like this is just comical with it’s swing back handlebars) and a quick can of Red Bull we lined up for the first qualification race. Luckily my jeans and t-shirt just about cut-it, I’ve never pinned a race number to a t-shirt before! It wasn’t until the final that I was up against a guy in full Italia race kit and a guy who had done this many times before!

6 entrants on bikes that felt 4 foot wide and the first corner being a hairpin corner made for some close action – baskets make great bumpers. The sprint down the back straight was into a headwind so finding cover here was vital, accelerating into it was tough, on a shopper bike even tougher!

Next up was a string of two 90 degree corners, on the first I managed to catch my pedal on the inside while hastily trying to sprint out of it, I don’t know if this put the challengers off but it let me lead into the next one! Into the home straight, slightly uphill and with chasers all over my wheel. The final kink in the track made for single file and if you could get into here first chance are you’d be first over the line.

A race of just one lap (just my sort of thing) I managed to bag first! My first win of the season which I’m most definitely taking and adding to my palmares! Importantly now I had to prepare for the final race which had some of the fastest guys from the other heats in, food and drink was called for…

Dave’s race:

The interval to my racing included Dave in the Cycling Weekly support race:

A convincing breakaway from Jamie Shirlaw (Herbalife Team) and Will Penn (Mammoth Lifestyle RT) split the Cycling Weekly Support race, with a lot of the field strung across the circuit. The pair established a good lead and it was Shirlaw who took the victory, proving just a tad too strong for Penn. David Everett (Team ProBikeKit) came in third.

You read it right, another podium for Team PBK, Dave got third with solid support from Richard Wilkinson (with his very nice Marvin watch) who came up to support the team.

Dave’s review of the race: “A rapid, well organised race that has a third of the crowd made up of drunken hen night women screaming in admiration of my skinny legs. The back straight being a street that would challenge any epileptic to last the distance with its disco lights and strobe flashes” – well done Dave (he does have epilepsy).


Support Race:

1 Jamie Shirlaw Herbalife Team
2 William Penn Mammoth Lifestyle RT
3 David Everett Team Probikekit
4 Matthew Pilkington Dulwich Paragon
5 Bill Nickson Bill Nickson Cycles RT
6 Adam Cairns Chevin Bang & Olufsen RRT
7 Milan Sihelsky Kuota-Spinergy-gsg
8 Richard Wilkinson ProBikeKit.com
9 Tom Armstrong Ribble Valley Juns
10 Dan Evans Rhos on sea C.C.

Hire Bike Final:

So now the big race which was to take place just before the main Elite race which had lots of big names entered: Dean Downing, Kristian House, Rob Hayles and Malcolm Elliott to name a few.

The final: “Members of the public qualified over two heats for the Cycle Hire Challenge, celebrating the success of Blackpool’s scheme, which is set to expand to 500 bikes. Chris Johnson was first across the line on his yellow hire bike, with the bright Dynamo-powered lamps lighting up the circuit. ” – From BC.org

Some nervousness on the line had us all lined up touching bars and ready to roll/pile into the first hairpin corner. This is where all my 4th cat and proud experience came in, my strategy was to sit in until the final sprint along the back straight. Slightly unchivalrous, but this is racing after all! With prizes and pride at stake.

Once under-way the events do become a blur and my eagerness to power round in my trainers was taking its toll. The last run down into the headwind was hard going and I somehow ended up in 4th with two 90 degree corners to go! Not what I’d planned, a cheeky pass past Diane Lee (who came close to having me in the first heat) into the first meant I just had two more to pass, being a brave and slightly stupid 4th cat I soon had just one to get around on the final straight. Running through my head were visions of glory and all those miles and efforts I’ve put in chasing tractors and trailers along the lanes, Paul Rowlands was the man to beat and it took every watt I could produce to get around his left hand side. White line fever and a shout of “on your left” through the s-bend led into a barrage of camera flashes and most importantly VICTORY!


Blackpool Hire Bike Challenge
1 Chris Johnson
2 Paul Rowlands
3 Diane Lee
4 Paul Gaida
5 Ryan Naylor
6 Patrick Moran

I’m now the proud owner of a Kask Sky helmet and more hours than I will ever need for Blackpool cycle hire. So 2010 so far: Wins – 2, Podiums – 1:

Dave managed to catch most of the Champagne that got sprayed his way, we also did quite well in making sure it didn’t go flat or warm in the evening heat – we drank it all before watching in awe, the speed of the Elite riders.

The Elite Race.

I thought they were eager to get me off the podium, the reason being that the Elite boys were waiting to start. Dave used to live with Dave Clarke who races for Pendragon Colnago and on the line everyone was having a good chat. Also here racing was Rubens Bertogliati who went backwards in the race but he certainly looked the Pro.

The group of elite cyclists took the mass of spectators by surprise as they hurtled around the streets of Blackpool at phenomenal speeds. It was a fantastic atmosphere further added to by the Brilliance Light and Sound show on Birley Street.

Downing (Rapha Condor Sharp) and Simon Richardson (Sigma Sport Specialized) spent much of the time off the front of the race, with Downing seemingly the only rider able to go with Richardson’s huge attack in the early stages. It was a decisive breakaway and one that even managed to lap some notable contenders over the tight course. Downing’s sprint was too much for Richardson’s endurance-style and it was always going to be likely that the punchy Yorkshire rider was going to be too powerful for Richardson.

“It’s taken me four years to win one of these,” laughed Downing after the finish. He and Richardson worked well, but were kept on their toes throughout the race by an impressive Dave Clarke. Despite Clarke’s best chasing efforts, he was outnumbered by a Rapha Condor Sharp squad looking for another podium position. Kristian House and Dean Windsor kept Clarke company, but it was Windsor who pealed off through the Red Bull chicane to take third.”

The Comedown:

After the glory of 2 podiums along with products and prize money we made for the Rapha coffee stand and sampled some of the best coffee I’ve ever tried, made by a chatty Frenchman who took a shine to the nights winnings. After all this excitement and adrenaline we thought we best call it a night.

We have to thank massively James Pope for the invite along with Katy and Bethan who made us feel really welcome  and seemed to bring sunshine with them (plus thanks for allowing the stragglers in). The whole night really was well organised and they had plenty going on for everyone.

These girls actually know what they’re on about when it comes to racing and have even just received their racing licences through – boosting the 4th cat numbers even more, welcome!

Let’s hope Revolution goes well and we’ll hopefully be able to go at watch that too for some more unexpected fun!

The British Cycling Report can be seen here.

The Nocturne Series website is here.

Dave has put together a video of all the clips which we took from the night (Nice one Dave, please excuse the spelling mistakes!):

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