Rapha Roller Race review
21.04.08 by Buffalo Bill
I have been to a lot of roller races, all of the Rollapaluzas, and a few other roller races besides, and I have to say that Saturday felt like the biggest and most successful rock ‘n’ roller extravaganza yet. Of all of the venues that have been used for roller races, I can only think of 2 that are bigger than Imbibe. Perhaps the Waterloo Gallery might be around the same size, but I doubt it. Shoreditch Town Hall, (scene of the 1st Rapha Roller Race) and Area 10, scene of the LBMA organised Rollapaluza I, are both bigger, but the atmosphere at neither event was better than Saturday.
In the space of 8 years, roller racing, rather like bicycle polo, has gone from being a forgotten branch of cycle-sport to a popular spectacle, that much was clear on Saturday night. Incidentally, it’s worth pointing out that Ross, who did as much as anyone to impel polo to its current status, was also part of the London Bicycle Messenger Association crew that staged the very first Rollapaluza. But back to Saturday night: I have to confess that I was a little nervous about the prospect of having Peter Mitchell participate. What if, I worried, he trounces the opposition by substantial margins? What interest, what excitement would that generate?
In actual fact, although Peter won, only one of his recorded times was quicker that the long-standing record belonging to Simon Jackson. Simon’s record was 19.81, and Peter posted 19.78 in his qualification ride. The other two times were 19.95 and 19.96. Seb CB went faster at Raphapaluza II, and Charlie actually posted the 3rd fastest recorded time of the night, 19.93, in one of his match races. Ian of La Fuga, eventual 2nd place, posted the 2nd fastest time of the night, 19.84. I don’t know whether Peter had a lot more under his saddle that he didn’t show us on Saturday, but it didn’t look like it to me. So what did we learn about the London roller racing scene? That some of our guys are quick, and on their day stand a chance of beating World Champions.
Let’s not get too excited though. Winston and Caspar reckon that the fastest rock ‘n’ rollers are spinning at an average of 220 revolutions per minute. According to hearsay, the world’s fastest man, Chris Hoy, warms up at a cadence of 300 rpm. Yes, 300 rpm. I was told that he uses a special 100 mm crank-set to do it, but translated in the crudest way to the Rollapaluza set-up, this might equal a sub 12 or even 11 second time. In any case, leaving the wonders of world-class cadence to one side, there is no doubt in my mind that we were honoured to have a World Champion at this roller race. After all, imagine if Charlie, in jeans, had beaten him? Young Mitchell would never ever had heard the end of it. Respect is due to the lad for fronting up in the kind of event he can never before seen the like of.
As Winston mentioned in his report, there was a lot of people in lycra, and Team Terminator were wearing skin-suits. Personally, I spent far too much time wearing cycling shorts in my life, and my idea of a great night out does not include zipping myself into a sheer one-piece, with integrated nappy. Are bib-shorts any more appropriate at a roller race than tennis socks?
All in all, a great night. Looking at the full qualifications listing, I count over 70 riders. That is more than any other roller race that I have attended. I know that Rollapaluza on tour has had bigger participations, but I have never been involved in a roller race with over 100 races, when you include all the knock-out rounds. Mind-blowing numbers, and it is a great credit to the preparation and organisation of the Rollapaluza crew that they were able to get through all the racing.
After Saturday’s success, there is every chance that Rapha will be presenting another Roller Race soon, but there will no doubt be more rock ‘n’ roll from the Rollapaluza boys even sooner. As for me? Well, I have been invited to MC the roller race party at the Cycle Messenger World Championships in Toronto this June. I will be reunited for one night only with my old sparring partner Tofu. See you there (as long as you aren’t wearing tube socks, as my North American cousins call the beastly things).