Well, eventually I did go to Smithfield Nocturne, and generally had a great time. It wasn't cheap, having paid a twenty quid entry fee, and seventeen pounds for parking, then petrol, fiver race license etc. Got there only just in time to register, and was quickly to the riders area, in jacket and shirt with race numbers, where I met StuAff, and prepared to ride. A practise lap, however, quickly revealed a couple of problems. I started fine, but early on the course you take a slightly descending gentle left, which turns into a very tight right. I came down this in top (which is now pretty high), doing some speed, and found and that on the very bumpy and potholed road my 100 psi tyres were less than ideal, and I was bouncing around all over the road! Also, my inexperience with the barend shifter meant that I'd not downshifted enough, I'd scrubbed off loads of speed in the corner, and had to head uphill. One of the team riders for a later and more serious event came past me round that corner as though I was standing still, so I took it personally, and decided to see if I could keep him in sight. I jumped on the cranks to fly round the corner, which by now was becoming less tight, and chase him up the slightly uphill back straight, and promptly dropped the chain. Stopped on the corner to put in on, but dropped it again immediately. Now I'm a little worried, I'd literally only been able to trial the bike up and down my road. When I get back on this time, I see that the chainring is badly bent. I hobbled it back to the riders area, and discovered that essentially the cranks aren't man enough for a guy my size mashing in such a high gear, and the spider has bent. I bent it back, but it was too easy, and I knew I'd have to take it easy and spin more, removing easily my greatest strength - hard sprinting!
Come the race, we got a practise lap (got all the way round this time), and then had to fold our bikes in the allotted randomly chosen positions. The sprint was a little hairy; I was to the back of the pack to start, and there was a lot of jostling, plus the sound of cleats on tarmac made me not eager to get in the middle of it! My bike was at one of the early positions, and despite my lack of practise, I unfolded quicker than many, and got away. I was habing to spin more than mash, which wasn't suiting me, but I realised as I came up the back straight for the first time that my fitness would be more of a limiting factor than the ability to sprint. I was passed by a couple of people on the first lap, and the Moulton, which had to be more or less built from scratch on the track, rocketed past me, but as I came toward the end of lap 1, I was able to pass the chap you see in the picture. He repassed me on the climbing back straight of lap 2, but on lap 3, I caught him and 3 of his Bromptoneering buddies, stuck behind them on the climb, and was able to kick past them on the home straight (that's twice I went past the main crowd overtaking people!). He managed to close the gap a bit on the climb of lap 4, but as we went round to the top corner, I kicked, and he quit. I definitely gave all I had, it was great, and I felt like I was there or thereabouts (needed to be in the top 20 of 40 riders).
Shortly later, back with my family, they called the riders who had qualified, and my number came up in about 13th place, way better than I thought! When the final came round, however, I did my warmup lap, and was then called in by a marshall who told me there'd been a mistake, and I'd actually finished outside the top 20 (results aren't up yet, but it looked like 23rd). I was gutted, to say the least, but it didn't ruin the day. It was about where I thought I was, and given my fitness, I can be quite sure I can make the final next year, and probably aim for a top half finish in that. My son, however, set the record on the roller racing early in the evening, and it was still standing when we left. Given that they were taking down the kids bikes and putting up the adults at that stage, I fully expect him to be the kids champion for the night!
All in all, a great time, and though looking after my wife and 15 month old son (the older one set the roller-race record!) meant I didn't see much more racing, there were a LOT of nice bikes, and I really enjoyed it. If you get the chance to attend one of these, go for it!