Mark Cavendish sprinted down The Mall this afternoon to take victory in the 140-kilometre London-Surrey Cycle Classic, the Olympic test event.
As if his status as Olympic favourite needed any more embellishment, he finished ahead of Sacha Modolo (Italy) and Samuel Dumoulin (France) in the shadow of Buckingham Palace.
“It was incredible, there was a big crowd and it was very technical,” Cavendish said at the finish.
While rival Dumoulin called him “untouchable,” Cavendish also sounded a cautionary note: “Today won’t give any indications of how the Olympic race will go.”
A late crash took one of his main rivals, Tyler Farrar (USA), out of contention.
Britain’s big day
Under blue skies, largest crowds gathered in central London, the suburbs and deepest Surrey to greet the biggest one-day race Britain has seen in over a decade.
British riders Tom Murray (Sigma Sport-Specialized), Liam Holohan (Team Raleigh) and Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-Sharp) decided to make hay in the sunshine. They were joined by Cleberson Weber (Brazil) in the day’s breakaway.
Heading through Kingston, Richmond Park and into deepest Surrey, the lead reached a maximum of six minutes before England and Great Britain started to crack the whip inside the final 60 kilometres.
2009 national road race champion Kristian House was first over both ascents of Box Hill to take the King of the Mountains award.
With the peloton bearing down on the break in the charge back to London, House was also the last man of the quartet to resist, being swept up with nine kilometres left.
After a brief solo bid by Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Norway) was brought back, a crash in front of grand Brompton Oratory, two kilometres from the finish, took Tyler Farrar out of contention and split the bunch.
According to Heinrich Haussler, the fall was caused by two riders fighting in the bunch. Farrar had just finished furiously chasing back on after puncturing in Richmond Park a dozen kilometres out.
With twenty-odd riders off the front of the bunch on The Mall, everything was set up for Mark Cavendish, and he didn’t disappoint.
A huge roar reverberated around the Mall as Cavendish took to the podium. Will we be seeing the same man cross the line victorious in just under 12 months’ time?
Television highlights of the London-Surrey Cycle Classic will be shown by the BBC next weekend
London-Surrey Cycle Classic 2011
1. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) 140.3 kilometres in 3-18-11
2. Sacha Modolo (Italy)
3. Samuel Dumoulin (France)
4. Stuart O’Grady (Australia)
5. Michal Golas (Poland)
6. Borut Bozic (Slovenia)
7. Alexander Kristoff (Norway)
8. Matt Goss (Australia)
9. Ian Bibby (Motorpoint)
10. Andrew Tennant (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)
13. Jeremy Hunt (England)
16. Roger Hammond (Great Britain) at 10secs
18. Russell Downing (Great Britain) at 25secs
19. Dave Clarke (Endura Racing) at 42secs
71. Heinrich Haussler (Australia) at 50secs
73. Tom Boonen (Belgium) at same time
Crowds wait for the race to arrive on the Box Hill circuit near Headley
Tom Murray heads the four-man escape group on the first lap of Box Hill
The main bunch chase the four leaders around Box Hill
Chris Froome chases the escape group. Photo: Graham Watson
Mark Cavendish wins on The Mall. Photo: Graham Watson
Mark Cavendish tops the podium, with Sacha Modolo (left) in second and Samuel Dumoulin (right) in third. Photo: Graham Watson
London-Surrey Cycle Classic 2011 photo gallery
London-Surrey Cycle Classic: The Big Preview
London-Surrey Cycle Classic training photo gallery
Box Hill set for London-Surrey Cycle Classic
Box Hill declared limited access for Olympic RR
Stars line up for Olympic Road Race Test Event