Cyclists took over the Hertfordshire village of Redbourn on Sunday as the second edition of The Hub’s Fête du Velo took place on closed roads around the common.
The event was the brainchild of Simon Barnes, the former owner of the Plowman Craven professional racing team, which counted Malcolm Elliott and Tony Gibb among its leading riders.
Two years ago, Simon opened The Hub, a cycling-themed café on the corner of the high street in Redbourn, which sits in the middle of Hertfordshire’s commuter belt, between St Albans and Harpenden and on the edge of the Chilterns. The café also had a bike maintenance workshop at the back and business took off so sharply that last year Simon opened The Bike Loft, a bike shop, at the other end of the high street.
The logical next step was to hold an event that everyone in the village and surrounding area could enjoy and so in June 2013 he held the first Fête du Velo, a day of cycling activities that culminated in a race for senior riders. That test event was so successful, he expanded his plans and the Fête du Velo returned this year bigger and even better.
Kicking off in the morning with The Hub Ride, the café’s popular free-to-enter monthly ride, which is a cross between a club-run and a sportive and heads out into neighbouring Bedfordshire, the focus of the afternoon was on the village common in Redbourn.
Most Sundays during the summer the village cricket team play on the common but bats, balls and stumps made way for bikes this Sunday, and lots of them.
There were races for children of all ages on a one-kilometre circuit that was closed to traffic all day so the cyclists could have their fun. After that, the grown-ups got to take to the roads for a series of races. The senior race, for second, third and fourth category riders, attracted a full field.
The innovative aspect of the senior race, which was won by Jerzy Kuminski ahead of his High Wycombe CC team-mate James Norris, was that the finishers were seeded into two elimination races. The first half of the field took part in elimination race A with the second half of the field riding in the B race. Each lap, the last rider over the line was eliminated, just as happens on the track.
And while the racing was going on the common was a hive of activity with plenty of stalls, food to buy, live music, a DJ and bikes for children to ride on the grass. Over the course of the day, the event attracted more than 1,500 people.
Simon explained the origins of the event: “We wanted to have a cohesive family event in the village in the sort of way that the French have had for years, incorporating cycle racing, leisure riding and other entertainment.
“Closing roads for anything is not an easy task and we had to do a lot of work to get permission to put the event on. The parish council were very supportive, as were Hertfordshire County Council, which is holding its Hertfordshire Year of Cycling, and Rupert Thacker and Jez Cox in particular, as well as Herts Police and Ringway but we couldn’t have done it without the help of Mark Doel from British Cycling.
“We’re very grateful to everyone for their support and understanding but because of the length of time it took to get everything in place we were not able to publicise it very far in advance but everything came together on the day.
“We had an email from Herts Police congratulating us for holding such a successful event and giving us encouragement for next year.”
Work will begin on securing dates for the 2015 Fête du Velo and Simon wants to make the event even bigger and more popular. He would also like to attract a title sponsor to help bear the cost of organising the event.
“If there are any companies out there who would like to put their name to the Fête du Velo, I’d love to hear from them,” he said. “We want to attract more riders and more spectators and make the Fête du Velo a big day in the village’s calendar. After that, perhaps we could export the format to other villages of a similar size. Redbourn has a population of about 6,000 people and a lovely common but it could work perfectly in other villages across the county.
“What was particularly pleasing was the number of children who got involved. In fact, since Sunday we’ve seen more youngsters riding round the common. That suggests to me that the event has planted a seed about cycling in some young minds.
“There were also several riders who were having a go at bike racing for the first time and to see them able to experience that thrill on closed roads was great.”
Men 2/3/4: Jerzy Kuminski (High Wycombe CC)
Women: Clemence Copie (Team Mule Bar Girl-Sigma)
Veterans: Mark Booth (Corley Cycles)
Youth A: Jack Plumley (Welwyn Wheelers)
Youth B: Thomas Zygo (Team MK)
Youth C/D/E: Oisin Murphy (Hillingdon Slipstreamers)
Photography by Jeanette Lendon – jeanettelendonphotography.co.uk