London – Surrey Cycle Classic

The official test event for the Olympic games cycle road race took place last Sunday (Sunday 14th August). I decided that as the Box Hill circuit part of the course is only about an hours ¹ ride from home I would cycle out and watch the race.

A map of the route (pdf) can be found here

The entry wasn’t as strong as it will be for the real event. As well as the national teams, several British Pro teams, such as Rapha-Condor-Sharp, Endura Racing and Motorpoint, boosted the numbers. They are all reasonable enough riders but I do not expect any of them to make the Olympic team next year. There were plenty of Pro-Tour riders present, Mark Cavendish, Tom Boonen, Heinrich Haussler, Rodger Hammond and Tyler Farrar to name a few.

I arrived at the Box Hill circuit slightly after half-past nine. This was after the circuit closure time so I wasn’t allowed to watch the race from my chosen vantage point. I ended up watching the race from the junction between Boxhill Road and Headley Common Road. I wasn’t a bad place to view the race because the riders had to slow right down to negotiate the junction, but it did get a bit crowded by the time the race came through, as more people than me didn’t know when the circuit would be closed. When I returned home after the race I searched the Interwebs and found that the circuit closure time was 09:30. The information was there just not very prominent or accessible. Publicity for the circuit closure times will need to be better for the real event next year. If it is not then crowd problems at the access points are a distinct possibility.

London Surrey Cycle Classic
The peleton disappearing up Headley Common Road

As was easily predictable before the race, Mark Cavendish won. Having in effect a ten man team (England and Great Britain rode together for the benefit of the Isle of Man) when all his rivals had five team-mates, was a bit of a help. In addition Tyler Farrar who was the only rider present with a realistic chance of beating “Cav”in a sprint, crashed with 2 km to go. After that it would have been harder for him to lose. Cycling News has a full report and pictures of the race.

My thoughts and opinions on the event

  • From an organisational point of view every thing seemed to go fairly smoothly. There were obviously some letters to the local press from the usual suspects complaining about the disruption that the road closures caused, but not too many, and I suspect that some had been pre-written.
  • I am not convinced that the Box Hill circuit is the best from a spectators point of view. I hadn’t realised that unlike at say the Tour de France, spectators are not allowed to stand on the road, so that makes many parts of the circuit out-of-bounds for spectators as the course is heavily wooded along much of the circuit. But I can’t think of another climb in the area that doesn’t have the same problems.
  • They will have to do something about the potholes, several of the riders complained about them. The road surface at the point I was watching the race made a tricky corner potentially lethal.
  • The circuit may prove to be more selective that I originally thought it would. On the first circuit the peleton was complete, bar a couple of stragglers, by the time they came round the second time, attacks on the climb had whittled it down considerably. Next year on the eighth and ninth times up the climb riders like Phillipe Gilbert, and Fabian Cancellara will be thinking that it is time to make the decisive move. If Mark Cavendish wants to win he will have to find a way to go with them or get back to them before the finish.

I’m sure that LOCOG will have learned a lot from the exercise and will be putting it into practice next year. So roll on the 28th and 29th of July 2012.

¹ It used to be 40 minutes but Surrey County Council seem to have lengthened the road in the past ten years.

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