A phone call from Craig MacLean the other day;

“I’ll be up in Edinburgh on Monday to do some promo work for the Nocturne races at the end of the month – fancy catching up?”

For sure mate.

And so I pottered along to the press launch of the Edinburgh Nocturne event today, which centered around an exhibition of roller racing, with the wonderful backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.

Caspar Hughes and Paul Churchill of Rollapaluza had setup the bikes at the bottom of the Grassmarket, but this was going to be a bike race with a difference – Craig was to compete against Hefin O’Hare, a member of the Scottish Sevens Rugby squad!

There will be a chance for everyone to have a go at roller racing on the podium truck when the Nocturn races are taking place on May 30th, with the: static bikes linked up to a timing and ranking system. Chris Hoy has set times on the system, so participants can see how far they are off an Olympic gold!

Edinburgh Nocturne
The guys warm up.

The two roller riders warmed up for 10 minutes or so in a slight drizzle, whilst a crowd of interested passers-by gathered under the thoughtfully-provided Rollapaluza awning. Also there were a few photgraphers and journalists, and a TV crew.

Once the guys were ready, they were told the rules (“go as fast as you can”) – although as a previous roller record holder I think Craig knew the score and was feeling pretty confident – and then they were off.

Edinburgh Nocturne
The countdown begins.

After around 10 seconds, Craig looked over his shoulder at the clock and realised that Hefin (who told us he doesn’t even own a bike but was receiving plenty of support from his teammates) was actually going very well!

Craig lifted his effort enough to stay in just front, but it wasn’t the cakewalk that we thought it would be, as his rival’s time of 21 seconds is actually very good indeed.

Craig looks round at the clock and gets a little surprise!
Craig looks round at the clock and gets a little surprise!
Edinburgh Nocturne
It’s all over in a flash, but it’s great fun – make sure you have a go when the Nocturne comes to town.

Whilst the guys cooled down and posed for photos, James Pope, of Nocturne Series organisers Face Partnership (the guys behind the Revolution Track series) told me a little background about the concept;

“The first Nocturne was dreamt up by Rapha clothing and Condor Cycles in 2007, and we got involved to help make the idea a reality. That race was at Smithfield, in London, and was a tremendous success, we had thousands of spectators and Scot James McCallum – who was the British Champion in this type of racing at the time – won it well.

“We ran two races in the series last year, at Smithfield again and in Salford, and this year we’re expanding the series to three events, with Edinburgh and Blackpool (August 1st) joining Smithfield on June the 6th.”

At this point, we headed over to the Apex Hotel for a coffee, and Craig was interviewed by the folks from BBC Alba, who were keen to hear about his plans for competing in the Paralympics in London in 2012 as a tandem driver for an athlete with visual-impairment.

Edinburgh Nocturne
Craig is interviewed by the BBC.

James met with various folk who are helping put on the Nocturne in Edinburgh, and I was struck by just what a major undertaking this actually is: the roads are going to be closed from early afternoon all the way through the event, which is scheduled to finish at around 10pm.

There’s going to be plenty of racing action on the programme to watch – or take part in – too. There will be youth racing, for boys and girls who are under 16, and races for the amateur licence holders.

Definitely worth a look will be the Folding Bike race, where 40 city commuters (in their suits!) will sprint to their folding bikes (like the famous Le Mans 24 hour motorcycle race) before leaping on and racing around the circuit.

The Corporate Challenge race offers local businesses – in teams of four – the chance to raise money for charity and get some local exposure too.

The highlight of the evening for many will be the Elite Criterium, which will feature some of the country’s leading professional riders such as David Millar and provides a great opportunity to get close to these top athletes as they hammer around the city for the best part of an hour.

Edinburgh Nocturne

The course for Edinburgh looks pretty hard; : from the start at the: north-east end of the Grassmarket near Gennaro’s Restaurant the riders head: left up Victoria Street, which with it’s steep cobbled climb will be a real leg-breaker after a few laps.

At the top of Victoria Street it’s a right turn onto George IV Bridge, and a gradual downhill towards Grayfriar’s Bobby, where the riders have to turn sharply right and head down Candlemaker Row and Cowgatehead, and back onto the Grassmarket – by this point, the speed will be pretty high, making the right turn back onto the cobbled north side of the Grassmarket pretty tricky.

Well I say tricky, but I mean spectacular – especially if it’s raining. As well as the many various bars, cafés and restaurants, this area is also where the other entertainment including trade exhibitions and the Rapha stand: will be sited, so it’ll be a good place to watch the race from.

The organisers are expecting over 5,000 people to be watching the race at the roadside, and with a real festival atmosphere and racing of all sorts to watch, it promises to be an exciting night. The action starts at 6pm – see you there!