Last night Conquista attended the RBC V Series, where teams representing eighteen firms – mostly City institutions – raced in an Italian pursuit format around the closed roads of Canary Wharf. Each team had eight members, with one peeling off at the end of each of the first four laps, leaving the last four to race one final circuit to the finish.
All the teams had enjoyed the benefit of numerous full training days and evening seminars. Various luminaries of the cycling world (including, at one point, Shane Sutton) were recruited to guide participants down their “Performance Pathway”, using video analysis, recording progress is regularly-updated blogs and providing tips on training and strategy.
On the night, all the teams were introduced to spectators over the PA as they signed on at the start in their spotless matching new kit. They were provided with a well-appointed pits area containing numerous Wattbikes to allow them to warm up, with no plastic rollers or wobbly old turbos in sight. All the action was broadcast on a big screen in Cabot Square, complete with live commentary. Everything was organised in militarily seamless fashion by the formidable Canary Wharf Group. And the event attracted some impressively big backers: not just title sponsor Royal Bank of Canada, but also premium bicycle maker Wilier Triestina, nutrition specialist and WorldTour sponsor Etixx, and leading financial market data provider Thomson Reuters, among others.
However, any resemblance to pro bike racing stopped there. Whatever training programmes Sutto and co. had provided, it is fair to say that not all the riders had attained peak physical condition. And that was not the only respect in which they had strayed from their Performance Pathway. On signing on, one team’s leader cheerfully admitted that several of his riders had been recruited that very day.
It hardly needs saying, therefore, that the standard of the actual racing was not terribly high. Indeed, the first few performances in particular were notable solely for their comedy value. Several teams had idiotically put their stronger riders first, who promptly left their weaker colleagues behind and so spent most of their leading lap looking behind themselves and bellowing “WHERE’S DAVE?”. As another team came past they were heard to discuss how many laps were left, before coming to the (erroneous) conclusion that their race was over. More unfortunately still, one team’s lead rider failed to understand the steward’s instructions and launched into her first lap early, giving her team a false start. As the team on the other side of the course then started correctly, and it was (apparently) impossible to recall them, her team was thus disqualified without having turned a wheel. Unable to ride on the circuit due to the approaching other team, they had no choice but to trudge back to the pits in their smart new matching custom kit, their evening over before they even had chance to lose each other or miscount their laps. Perhaps it was for the best.
However, as the evening wore on the standard of racing improved substantially, with some teams even successfully sticking together for several laps at a time. Although the commentator appeared to go missing, nightfall made the setting much more dramatic and created quite the urban racing atmosphere.
Not enough to encourage us to stay until the end, obviously, so we can’t tell you who won. Nor do we care much. But at least we stayed long enough to get some photos.