The route of the 2012 Olympic road race won’t be officially unveiled until Friday, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) visits London, but anticipation is already building in the Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames which is expected to host part of the route of both the men’s and women’s races.
London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympics envisioned an anti-clockwise circuit starting and finishing in Regent’s Park, taking in Highgate West Hill before turning left along the top of Hampstead Heath before swinging back down through Hampstead Village, Rosslyn Hill and Haverstock Hill back and through Primrose Hill to complete the loop.
That circuit was tried out in 2006 during the London stage of that year’s Tour of Britain, and was given the thumbs-up by local lad Bradley Wiggins, who said at the time: “It looks like it will be a fantastic route. It's going to go past where I used to live in Maida Vale and I used to dream of riding in big races. Now there's one right on my old doorstep."
However, the course was rejected by the IOC and world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, which felt that a route passing some of London’s iconic landmarks would be more in keeping with the status of the event.
Moreover, with the 240 kilometre men’s race taking place on Saturday 28 July, the day after the opening ceremony, and the 130 kilometre women’s race taking place 24 hours later, the events provide an unmissable opportunity to showcase the sites of a city that will have the eyes of the world upon it for the following fortnight.
While the route won’t be officially unveiled until the end of this week, it is widely expected to start and finish in front of Buckingham Palace on The Mall and to head through Kensington & Chelsea past Hampton Court Palace prior to crossing the river to tackle several loops of Box Hill before heading back into the capital.
The revised route could well benefit Britain’s Mark Cavendish, since a strong attack on the final ascent of Highgate West Hill on the original circuit would have left little time for the peloton to respond before the fast descent through Hampstead and Belsize Park towards the finish. Now, however, it looks likely that there will be around 40km of pretty flat terrain towards the finish following the last climb.
As reported on road.cc last month, there has been disappointment in the London Borough of Barnet over news of the revised route, which sees the borough miss out on its one and only chance of hosting part of an event in the 2012 Games.
In Kingston-Upon-Thames, however, which lies across the river from Hampton Court Palace, excitement is building ahead of the expected confirmation that the borough’s roads will play host to the world’s top cyclists as they race for Olympic gold.
James Beaumont from the Kingston Wheelers Cycling Club told the Kingston Guardian: “We are still waiting for official confirmation of the route, but this is bound to be an exciting moment for the Olympics.
“Last time [in Beijing in 2008] the race passed the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square – it is always a moment for the Games to showcase the local scenery and history.
“It is also a chance of the Games to step out of east London. For those of us on the other side of London, it is great news the races could well go by our doorstep.”
He added that the club had seen a boost in membership following Team GB’s Beijing success and that he believed that the race passing through Kingston in 2012 could provoke a similar rise in local interest in the sport.
Boroughs that will host the event have had to sign confidentiality agreements and so are restricted in what they can reveal publicly, but Councillor Simon James, Kingston Council’s Olympic Champion, told the newspaper: “It would be nice for Kingston to get some of the events. The Games belong to all of London so if Kingston got some of that it would be nice for the people not to have to travel.
“We will certainly have the Olympic torch relay coming through Kingston and every other London borough,” he added.
“We would be looking to use the Olympics to encourage sport, but obviously if it comes through Kingston that would be better promotion.”
While British riders can be assured of huge home support during the two races, the prospect of the route passing through Kingston should also see fans turn out to urge on the likes of Garmin-Transitions rider Robbie Hunter – the borough, together with neighbouring Merton, is home to a sizeable South African expatriate population.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.