The end result
Breakaway goes away, breakaway gets chased down with 10 kilometres to go and Mark Cavendish sweeps to victory on The Mall. Same again next year, please. Somehow I reckon it won’t be so easy.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. These were the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen in British races. High on a Cavtastic Tour de France, people – a mix of gender and demographics too – came from far and wide to spectate, armed with homemade banners, Union Jacks and picnic tables.
Kingston and Hampton Court had crowds four or five deep; crowds were packed in tight on village greens in little Surrey Hills villages. It was reminiscent of the 2007 Tour de France visit – and all for a test event.
Even the sport’s stars, who might err towards the blasé about the number of spectators given the number of Grand Tours and Classics they race, raved about the level of support.
This was the closest evidence yet that cycling has transcended its niche status to become a mainstream sport. The Olympic road race is going to be extremely popular.
After the riots in London earlier this week, this event didn’t need any embarrassments, clashes or problems.
The road race is one of the most difficult events in the Olympics to stage and police, but there were no cars left in the road, no accidents with spectators and no significant issues – not even an errant ex-priest in sight.
140 kilometres and two ascents of Box Hill made for an easier route this time round, but with the added kilometres, ascents and quality, this will be a finely-balanced test next summer. We can’t wait for a ding-dong battle between the hardened Classics riders and sprinters over Olympic gold.
We’d wager, too, that the nagging section of false flat after the climb proper of Box Hill is going to be where the damage happens.
The London-Surrey Cycle Classic peloton heads through Richmond Park
We received plenty of questions about television coverage from eager fans. Where is it being shown? How long is it on for? When can we watch it?
The answer: a 20-30 minute highlights package on the BBC next weekend. Not good enough – heck, some of you information-starved lot even had to put up with our Twitter feed – and nowhere near a decent enough test for the media inundation the race will receive at London 2012.
Atmosphere in key places
In cycling races, the finish line and the race’s main climb are the two places spectators want to be.
Box Hill and The Mall are the two focal points of this course. The climb is to be tackled nine times in the Olympic race itself. People want to be there – it’s a mecca for London/Surrey cycling too, don’t forget – unencumbered, without the need for a lottery-won wristband or feeling like they’re causing a nuisance.
In my opinion, Box Hill’s enclosed area didn’t quite work. Riders had two kilometres of silent, fan-free climbing, followed by a 300m section near the top of enthusiastic fans going mad behind a fence. It was like pedalling from a meditation session into a monkey enclosure.
It was brilliant but far too brief: the event’s flagship climb has the potential to be our Alpe d’Huez, 3 kilometres of berserk fans rather than 300 metres.
My suggestion: either increase the climb’s capacity considerably – the hill’s SSSI rules will make that difficult – or find another climb.
The finish line atmosphere was rather sterile too, and the fans in attendance were too far from the podium to enjoy Cav’s champagne moment.
It’s not too late to review and make changes to the route. Your move, LOCOG.
We’re already receiving comments from readers of heavy-handed security with different agendas: one man would tell a cyclist he could ride on the route once it had passed, the next would stop him, saying in no uncertain terms to get off his bike.
To an extent, the organisation can’t win with this one. Security is a massive priority, and it’s going to be even more strict for the real thing.
The bunch on Box Hill: where are the fans?
Crashes/pinch points on the course
Central London and its suburbs are not ideal for a free-flowing road race, and improvements can be made. Several riders commented on the presence of some road furniture and poor surface in places.
There were back-to-back crashes in a very similar spot on the Box Hill false flats.
And having seen the exact place Tyler Farrar came down, just before Brompton Oratory, my view is that his crash was caused more directly by a narrowing of the metal barriers – a pinch point – rather than by pushing in the bunch.
Cavendish wins London-Surrey Cycle Classic
London-Surrey Cycle Classic photo gallery
London-Surrey Cycle Classic: The Big Preview
Box Hill set for Olympic test event
Box Hill declared limited access for Olympic road race