The Milk Race

Tuesday 29 April 2014
reading time: min, words
It was a huge event back in the day, and now it's back - on yer bike, with you
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World Champion cyclist - Katie Archibald

Years ago The Milk Race was the big multi-stage event in Britain’s amateur bike racing calendar. Long before Sir Bradley Wiggins came into the world, some of the world’s best riders would race their machines up hill and down dale to win The Milk Race trophy (and get photographed drinking milk). There were many British winners in the early days of the fifties and sixties, far fewer in the seventies and eighties. But native-born talent who held the trophy aloft in the later years included Shane Sutton, who is now part of the successful Team Sky and British Cycling coaching teams, and Sheffield veteran Malcolm Elliott, who went on to defy the laws of ageing by competing professionally until the age of 47.

The old Milk Race finally came to an end in 1993 when sponsors The Milk Marketing Board was disbanded. Although a national race has continued under different names since then, for many veterans the very words "Milk Race" causes instant mental transference to a cycling golden age of embrocation, padded leather helmets and heavy steel-framed bikes. 
But that was then. Last year, after a twenty years hiatus, The Milk Race was revived by new sponsors and held in Nottingham. And in May, the race comes back to Nottingham for a two-day event featuring a sprinkling of Britain’s top riders including Olympic gold track sprinter Ed Clancy and the eleven Olympic gold medal winner Dame Sarah Storey. You can see them in action in the elite men’s and women’s races that take place on Sunday May 25. And in the hours before this, ordinary mortals can ride exactly the same route (see below for details). 
While last year’s event attracted 60,000 people, it should be noted that the new Milk Race isn’t the same race as the old multi-stage competition. Today the race is more properly called a criterium, or urban race, which essentially means that dozens of riders welly it around Nottingham city centre at top speed for an hour. The speed and the flashing colour of the bikes and team jerseys make for an intoxicating encounter with a sport that has quickly gained a much higher profile in Britain following two successive British victories in the Tour de France and a string of medal wins at the Olympics.

So are Sir Brad and Team Sky coming to Nottingham? No. But Team Raleigh is, as is the black-clad Rapha Condor JLT, whose riders include the carrot-haired Ed Clancy and last year’s Milk Race winner Felix English. Other confirmed teams include Velosure-Giordana 2014, Madison Boot Out Breast Cancer (featuring Dame Sarah Story and rising Scottish rider Katie Archibald) Cambridge University Cycling Club and Wiggle Honda.
The fact that the revived Milk Race has come to Nottingham at all may be an indication of how well rated Nottingham is as a cycling city. Of course there’s the Raleigh heritage and the often forgotten fact that one of Britain’s greatest professional racing heroes, Tommy Simpson, who died in the 1967 Tour de France, lived at Harworth. Nottingham’s central location and a city council leader, Jon Collins - who happens to be a keen road cyclist - also played a part in bringing the race here. In all, 2014 is set up to be a golden year for interest in professional cycling in Britain. After The Milk Race, the Tour de France will visit Yorkshire in July;  this momentous event being followed in the late summer by the Tour of Britain. And if all that doesn’t make you want to pull on padded shorts, nothing will.
The 2014 Milk Race, Saturday 24 - Sunday 25 May, central Nottingham. The Elite races take place on the Sunday: Women’s Race, 1.15pm; Men’s Race, 4pm. Prior to both races the public can ride The Milk Race route. There are four rides: corporate, advanced, youth and family. These take place between 9am and 12 noon.

The Milk Race website

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