A sell-out crowd of packed into the Imbibe bar in central London last Saturday as more than 70 riders lined up for the first leg of the Rapha Roller Race International Series.
With rising track star and reigning world junior team sprint champion Pete Mitchell among the favourites, the prospect of records tumbling was good.
The once hugely popular spectacle of roller racing, in which two riders take to a stage to do battle on a pair of vintage rollers, has enjoyed a healthy revival in recent years and Saturday?s event drew teams from across London?s cycling community.
Lining up alongside the traditionally strong contingent of cycle messengers were teams made up of bankers, media types and, for the first time, those from London cycling clubs, whose members turned up in numbers to lend highly vocal support.
Of the 12 men?s and four women?s teams vying for the title of ‘King and Queen of the Rollers’, a first appearance for the clubs ensured competition was fierce from the start.
As early as the qualifying rounds, no fewer than seven riders posted times below 21 seconds for the 500m distance. Mitchell?s qualifying time, 19.78secs, proved not the only the best time of the evening but was also good enough to beat the 19.80secs set by Simon Jackson at the inaugural Rapha Roller Race held last November.
The atmosphere was given additional spark by the presence of Nicole Smith and Jai Simone, two burlesque ring-card girls who, with the help of a freely flowing bar, kept the crowd entertained and informed about proceedings.
By the knock-out stages there was little to separate the leading riders but in the end it was La Fuga?s Ian Holt and Mitchell, representing Team Terminator, who battled through to the final. With the distance raised to 1,000m, both men gave their all but by the 500m mark, Mitchell had begun to gain the upper hand. With Holt unable to cut into his lead, Mitchell duly went on to claim victory. Crowned alongside him in the women?s competition was a newcomer, Agatha, representing the Trixie Chicks, and who grabbed victory with Kimberly Kabatoff, the London Dynamo club rider, hot on her heels.
The overall team prizes went to the Fireflies and La Fuga, in the women?s and men?s competitions respectively. The open ?Have-a-Go? competition, which ran concurrently with the team event and in which 38 rookies tested themselves on the rollers, was won by Janky James of Rollapaluza CC and Rachel. The ?Best Dressed Team’ prize went to the Banker team, who showed up in full City attire, including bowler hats, shirts and ties.
Photos by Jocelyn Low