As a medieval thoroughfare, Cheapside offered a conduit for farm produce to enter the city from Smithfield Market. Now superseded by digital ‘traffic’, this street in the shadow of St. Paul’s has nonetheless lost nothing of its commercial vigour. And on Saturday 10th June, the cowbells echoing off the shop and office frontages may have harboured a memory of Bow Bells but were calling the faithful to a more secular spectacle. The Rapha Nocturne was in town; bringing cycle racing to the very heart of the city.
Whilst the expectant crowds cheered the competitors under a cloudless blue sky – the running order drawing to a close with the floodlit elite men’s race – perhaps few would appreciate the 24 hour transformation set into motion after months of preparation and planning.
As the title sponsor, Rapha had a significant visual presence on the day. And as closing roads to traffic is understandably a time-sensitive task, the process of turning city streets into a race circuit began at dawn with the whole area once again cleared after the last competitor crossed the finish line.
After waiting for the ‘all clear’ from the event contractors tasked with placing barriers and laying power cables – takeout coffee, breakfast rolls and bike games helping to pass the time – emerging from two carefully packed vans was all that was needed to construct a pop-up clubhouse adjacent to the finish straight. With boxes of stock, display rails and shop fittings; the Nocturne t-shirt clad Rapha team set to work and kept on working. Right through to the van doors closing a little after midnight and the day’s end.