London’s Hampton Court Palace will next year provide a suitably regal backdrop to the men and women striving to be crowned Olympic time trial champion with the news that both events are to start and finish at the historic former royal residence.
Both races take place on 1 August next year, Day 5 of the Games, with the men competing on a 44km course, which incorporates the route of the shorter, 29km women’s race. The good news for spectators is that both events are free to attend in their entirety, with no tickets needed, and the route map can be found here.
Emma Pooley, who claimed silver in Beijing and the World Championship in Geelong last year, will be a strong home favourite in the women’s event, and said of today’s announcement: “It is interesting to now know the Time Trial course for London and I’m looking forward to training especially for it. Hampton Court Palace is a beautiful part of London and it will be a great event for spectators.”
With Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins likely to be concentrating on helping defend Great Britain’s team pursuit title over at the Velodrome in Stratford, it was one of the ProTeam’s 2011 signings, Alex Dowsett, who was at today’s photocall (pictured) and who will be targeting a medal on home soil.
Missing next year, however, barring an unexpected change of policy on the part of the British Olympic Association, will be David Millar, who took silver in the World Championships in Geelong, followed days later by gold at the Delhi Commonwealth Games; the Scot will not be considered for selection due to the two-year ban he received in 2004 for using EPO.
Seb Coe, Chair of Games organisers LOCOG, said: “Hampton Court Palace is a stunning venue that will showcase the area. We have worked closely with the UCI and our partners to ensure that we have the best possible sporting course for the athletes and we are confident of spectacular races and worthy winners.
“Following Team GB’s medal success in Beijing, the Road Cycling events really will bring the magic of the Games to life for many thousands of spectators,” he added.
Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London, emphasised that the event would allow more residents of the capital to experience the Olympics close to their homes, saying: “This is another great example of how we are bringing events to the outer boroughs of the city so that all Londoners can feel the buzz of the Games.
“From the 4,000 year old Bronze Age heritage of Bushy Park, to the Tudor magnificence of Hampton Court Palace, this is a beautiful part of the capital and one that is steeped in history. There can be no doubt that this particular route will provide a stunning backdrop for Time Trial cycling in 2012.”
Meanwhile, Michael Day, Chief Executive of Historic Royal Palaces, underlined the Palace’s sporting heritage – it still boasts one of the country’s few Real Tennis courts – explaining: “We are delighted that Hampton Court Palace has been chosen to host the start and finish for the Olympic Games Cycling Time Trial event.
"Since Henry VIII’s time, the Palace has played host to many great royal sporting occasions such as jousting, wrestling, archery and fencing. We are thrilled this sporting legacy will continue in 2012, as we welcome local people and spectators from around the world to Hampton Court to enjoy this exciting event.”
When London made its successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics back in 2005, it was envisaged that the time trials, like the road races, would start and finish in Regent’s Park and take place on a route including Hampstead and Highgate.
As with the road races, however, the Games’ organisers were asked to draw up new routes for the time trials by the International Olympic Committee and world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, which wanted to showcase key London landmarks.
UCI president Pat McQuaid welcomed the route announcement, saying: “The UCI is very pleased with this Time Trial course for both men and women. It has a wonderful historical backdrop for the start and finish in Hampton Court Palace and the route covers some wonderful rolling Surrey countryside which is both physically and technically demanding. This will ensure the Olympic medals are well merited.”
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.