By Simon Smythe
The UCI’s Lugano Charter, which banned monocoque-style bikes such as the Lotus and other radical designs, was issued in October 1996 - exactly 25 years ago.
Determined to commemorate what many still think was an ill-conceived and regressive step, Lotus 110 bikes turned out in force for the ‘UCI Bandit’ (geddit?) category within the National Closed Circuit Championships at Thruxton yesterday.
Paul Greasley, the Lotus 110 Club’s historian, was the driving force behind getting the category onto the start sheet in the first place.
“Two years ago Lotus were doing something on social media called #TypeTuesday. Every month they were focusing a different Lotus model, like the Lotus 25 for example - it was a nostalgia thing. July was coming up and I said to them, you do realise that your Type Tuesday actually aligns with when Chris Boardman won the Tour de France prologue [in Lille on the Lotus 110 in 1994]? It was 25 years ago on that day. Would you consider doing something? And they said ‘yes definitely, we’d be up for that.’ Then, come Type Tuesday they put on the Lotus Elise."
“I just thought that was such a golden opportunity and they’d wasted it," continued Greasley. "This was a similar thing - it was 25 years and it would have been a shame if it had just got away. I wasn’t really concerned with whether it would be well attended or not, but I’m delighted that the amount of people who came along did."
“These bikes are meant to be raced and it’s nice for them to get dusted down and ridden - it’s the perfect way to mark what was a huge moment in cycling.”
According to the Lotus 110 Club, there were 263 Lotus 110s made, and the club's mission is to trace as many of them as possible.
Paul Osborne was the winner of the UCI Bandits TT, on a Lotus 110 of course, but other outlawed monocoque bikes figured including a Hotta TT700 and a Giant MCR, and the display afterwards in the pit lane featured Thierry Marie’s 1991 Raleigh - which might have been the actual frame he rode to win the Tour de France prologue that year but that fact is now lost in time.
There was also a curvaceous Corima Cougar and an angular Look KG196 alongside the perhaps more familiar S shape of the Lotus 110s - all lost in time in their own way, but today enjoying their place in the sun once again.
Simon Smythe is Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and has been in various roles at CW since 2003. His first job was as a sub editor on the magazine following an MA in online journalism (yes, it was just after the dot-com bubble burst).
In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends a bit more time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.
What's in the stable? There's a Colnago Master Olympic, a Hotta TT700, an ex-Castorama lo-pro that was ridden in the 1993 Tour de France, a Pinarello Montello, an Independent Fabrication Club Racer, a Shorter fixed winter bike and a renovated Roberts with a modern Campag groupset.
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