HOW about turning the Newport Nocturne into a four-night event?
Mick Jeggo, who with his son Nick promotes the popular bi-annual Shropshire Star Newport Nocturne, is always on the look out for something new to give the crowds ?and the riders!
That?s why this event has proved such a success, why Newport Town Council asked Jeggo to reintroduce it in 2001 after a 10-year break.
The occasion takes the form of a Past Masters race, the British Cycling Elite Circuit race series, plus a showcase event. It is the only floodlit race in Britain, is Jeggo?s proud boast.
?To make a four-day of it or four nights - would need to be bankrolled to the tune of around £200,000,? reckons Jeggo. ?We?d need a major sponsor.?
At present the event is sponsored by a raft of local firms, including two well-known cycling business, Yellow Ltd and Parker International. When Jeggo ran his thoughts past his contact at the Shropshire Star, he agreed a four-night event was a great idea.
Jeggo?s got his eyes on a number of towns ? Ludlow, Shrewsbury, Market Drayton, perhaps Bridgnorth. All are within the Star?s circulation area. But the question is, says Jeggo, would these other towns take to it like Newport?
People who have never been to the Nocturne may ask what is so special about it.
Well, I?ve been to two of them, including the great relaunch in 2001, brought back by popular demand after a 10-year break.
The Mayor of Newport said to the Newport Advertiser, ?The bike race is a great opportunity to again put Newport on the map.?
The police like it because on t his one night of the year the cells remain empty.
Starting just as the light fades and the streetlights come on is part of the magic.
Jeggo also erects industrial floodlighting, to enhance the special effects.
It?s like a Belgian kermesse ? a street party. The roads are closed, the barriers go up, the crowds start to arrive. The star riders are introduced to the crowd, riding forward to the line one by one.
Some spectators gather at the cobbled turn around the Church clock tower ? to see some neat cornering and occasional spills. A jazz band strikes up, the pubs start serving. At the residential end of the circuit the smell of BBQs waft across the road. One rider dropped off the back stopped for a hamburger one year!
Then there?s the commentary. It?s been BBC TV?s Hugh Porter when I?ve covered the race and he?s always caught the mood of the occasion, the mix of fun and serious hard racing, keeping the crowd informed as attack follows attack.
Jeggo adds other ingredients. ?You?ve got to have an edge, like the ?Battle of Beijing? this year.? This was the one-lap tt, or sprint, which saw Olympic champion Rob Hayles beat David Millar and also featured Britain?s road sprinting revelation, Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas, who made their Tour de France debut this year.
To add a bit of extra sparkle for the crowd, Jeggo has had Ferraris as following vehicles!
He puts on a show. And then there?s the fun of seeing the winner of the elite race ? it was evergreen vet Malcolm Elliott (46) this year ? being plonked on a set of giant scales so he can take home his own weight in beer. Bass sponsor this prize.
And Sid Barras, 59, won the Past Masters.
It all goes back to 1970s and 1980s when Jeggo, seeking to promote his car sales business in the town (Davies and Jeggo) organised an annual pro road race based on Cheney Bank.
By the second year he had it also coming down the High Street each lap.
In 1986 the event was chosen to be the national professional road race championship. Four times in all the title race was held there. Mark Bell won the first, followed by Paul Sherwen in 1987, then Steve Joughin in 1988, and Brian Smith in 1991. The crowds were huge and people soon got to know the stars.
Men like Sid Barras and Keith Lambert both won five times at Newport. But how to capture the old magic, thought Jeggo, in 2001. It was obvious, bring back the old pros. And so it was the event became shaped around the Past Masters race, and the former pros leapt at the chance to relive former glories.
News travelled fast and Sean Kelly, the former world number one, got wind of the Nocturne. Jeggo was flabbergasted when Kelly asked to ride in 2003. He won, of course. A crowd of 14,000 turned up! Kelly?s face was a picture at the all the fuss bestowed upon him, people at the barriers call ing out his name, asking for autographs. He thought he was back in Paris, winning the first of his four Tour de France points jerseys!
The Nocturne formula has proved a great success, allowing the old champions to show off their paces and showcasing the best of the up and coming stars in the Elite race, which has since becoming part of the national circuit series.
But will it stretch to four days, wonders Jeggo? Maybe he?ll opt for a two-nighter to begin with. Shrewsbury showed interest a few years ago. Why not get the weekend off on Friday night in Shrewsbury, with the finale on Saturday night in Newport?
To find out more about the Newport Nocturne, visit the website: www.bikerace.co.uk
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