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Mark Cavendish on the podium in Montpellier after winning stage 15 of the Tour de France.
A host of top-level pros will descend on London this Sunday for the 2012 London Olympic Test event. Branded as the London-Surrey Cycle Classic, the race will see the likes of Mark Cavendish, Tyler Farrar and Tom Boonen compete over 140 kilometers of closed roads through Greater London and Surrey.
Starting out on the Mall, opposite Buckingham Palace, riders will head east, across Putney Bridge, before meandering through parkland and six London boroughs. From there they will head into Surrey, complete one lap of rolling countryside, before two 15 kilometer loops that include Box Hill.
Next summer the Olympic Road Race will comprise of over 250 kilometers of racing but this weekend’s event will be a crucial part in any aspiring medallist's plans for glory. The roads, especially through Surrey and Box Hill, are tight and technical, meaning positioning will be crucial, and the high-calibre field is testament to the importance of the race.
Adding another dimension will be the fact that teams are limited to 5 riders, meaning the racing should be unpredictable and harder to control. UK-based teams such as Rapha and Raleigh will also be taking part and will be looking to give the likes of Great Britain, Australia, Italy and France a run for their money.
“When the Olympic bid was submitted the route was around Regent’s Park but the UCI asked us to find something more challenging for the riders. That was a big project but we ultimately came up with the route that we’ve got now. What’s great about it isn’t just that it starts and finishes in Greater London but it also takes in the climbs in the North Downs as best as it can,” Cycling Manager Simon Lillystone told Cyclingnews.
With the top of the final climb 49 kilometers from the finish line in London the sprinters will still fancy their chances but for Lillystone a smooth running event prior to London is more important than the actual racing.
“It’s really important that everyone realises that this is a test for us. LOCOG isn’t here to deliver the most amazing London-Surrey Classic, we’re here to deliver a good race but it’s all about how the organisation of the race goes rather than the actual outcome. We want spectators to come out and support it but we want to test the course,” he told Cyclingnews.
And there are various places out on the course for the public to see the race, although numbers will be limited on Box Hill due to environmental concerns.
Recent riots and cases of looting in London have cancelled some sporting events in the capital but the race will nevertheless go ahead after the organisers and policing authorities agreed that the event safety had not been compromised.
“We don’t have a culture in this country of closing roads on this scale and this is a vast undertaking of this scale by London.
“As an event organiser we’re very much in the hands of the authorities and police and we work closely with them and they’re saying the event can go ahead. It’s not been a great week but everyone has been supportive.”