Boris Johnson plans two-wheeled equivalent of London Marathon with 30,000 riders

"World's biggest timed bike race" would be on UCI World Cycling Tour & coincide with pro event

by Simon_MacMichael   April 5, 2011  

Houses of Parliament copyright Simon MacMichael .jpg

Mayor of London Boris Johnson is reportedly planning to emulate the success of the London Marathon by joining forces with the UCI to put on what will be the biggest timed bike race in the world with 30,000 amateur riders taking to the capital’s streets. The first edition is planned for 2013, running alongside a separate event for some of the world’s top pro riders, reports the London Evening Standard.

The event, which would fall under the UCI World Cycling Tour – the governing body is said to have received bids from nine UK cities to host a leg of the amateur series – takes its inspiration from South Africa’s annual Cape Argus ride and the newspaper reports that it has seen documents outlining four potential routes of between 60 and 120km.

The first follows the route of next year’s Olympic Road Race, starting and finishing on the Mall, with an itinerary taking riders through London’s South Western suburbs before tackling Box Hill in Surrey.

Also under consideration are a loop following the North and South Circular Roads, a route that starts and ends in Stratford’s Olympic Park with riders passing some iconic sights in Central London before heading out into the Essex Countryside, and a fourth option starting in Greenwich and covering some of the roads in Kent raced in Stage 1 of the 2007 Tour de France before heading back to the city centre.

The event would cost an estimated £3 million, which would be met by entry fees as well as sponsorship. The Standard says that the route following the Olympic Road Race appears to be the favoured option, with documents foreseeing the event then “evolving to a more inclusive route (including the Olympic Park) in subsequent years.”

The newspaper adds that Visit London is holding a meeting next week, which will bring together transport heads, London Marathon management and the Metropolitan Police, ahead of a decision being made over putting together a formal bid.

We’re contacting the relevant bodies to obtain further information, and will bring you more news as and when we have it.
 

17 user comments

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The trouble with a two-wheeled equivalent of London Marathon is that cyclists usually demand something a bit more interesting than runners, who are too busy staring at the tarmac a couple of meters in front of them to notice that most of London is a flat, featureless eyesore. Can't we get a British equivalent of the Etape - you know a challenging route (so the Etape Caledonia doesn't count) on closed roads somewhere you'd actually choose to ride? The choice of potential routes for this thing isn't exactly enticing:

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The first follows the route of next year’s Olympic Road Race

I think people are massively overestimating the long-term appeal of the Olympics for cyclists. Do people in Beijing or Athens or Sydney ride the route of their road races? Or do they choose the best and quietest roads in their areas that probably weren't included in the race route for logistical reasons?

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Also under consideration are a loop following the North and South Circular Roads

Wow, cycling on London's inner ring road. That would be a life's ambition fulfilled. Who needs majestic mountain vistas when you can ride past one of the world's finest collections of graffitied concrete structures and derelict land scattered with fag-ends and abandoned crack-pipes.

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a route that starts and ends in Stratford’s Olympic Park with riders passing some iconic sights in Central London before heading out into the Essex Countryside

There is a reason the Dunwich Dynamo rides through Essex at night - because it is so dull in the daylight you are actually less likely to fall asleep riding through it in the dark.

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a fourth option starting in Greenwich and covering some of the roads in Kent raced in Stage 1 of the 2007 Tour de France

You mean the route that resulted in that famous mountain goat David Millar getting the polka dot jersey? Apart from the last great sprint of Robbie Mac, that was a bit of a snooze too.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
5th April 2011 - 13:46

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DO you feel better after getting that off your chest ? Wink

... and relax. Whew!

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posted by abudhabiChris [503 posts]
5th April 2011 - 13:54

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Sounds like a recipe for the biggest stack up in history.

posted by wild man [279 posts]
5th April 2011 - 14:16

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So much negativity!! Life is full of surprises and experiences... sticking to the same old routine(s) make it boring.

At least someone is trying to do something for us cyclists....

Marky

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posted by Marky Legs [107 posts]
5th April 2011 - 14:21

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As a watcher of Twenty Twelve I realise how important the Olympic Lega... ooops sorry Sustainability is. All these politicians have to do their very best to justify the money that the Olympics has cost the nation, so trying to remind people that it was held in the UK will be at the forefront of the agenda of everyone involved for the remainder of their careers. And to be fair as it is in England the people will probably go along with it. Let's face it how long have "we" managed to live off winning one Football World Cup almost 50 years ago.

And having to put up with the moans of the general public in Stoke each year cos the roads have rolling closures for the Tour of Britain I can just see the complaints rolling in for major road closures for an amateur event, cos let's face it cycling gets such a good reception in the capital (and the UK in general) as it is from the GP.

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posted by bikeandy61 [386 posts]
5th April 2011 - 14:27

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There are some interesting bits of road in London and that includes some not so flat bits too.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2137 posts]
5th April 2011 - 14:38

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bikeandy61 wrote:
And to be fair as it is in England the people will probably go along with it. Let's face it how long have "we" managed to live off winning one Football World Cup almost 50 years ago.

Don't forget there will be 11 football matches played at the Millennium Stadium in Wales (or that the home athletes at London 2012 will be representing GB, not England) Wink

And to those of us from North of the Border, the football match that sticks in the memory is a certain one played at Wembley in 1967, not 1966 Big Grin

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7969 posts]
5th April 2011 - 14:41

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Well, at least its a proactive move. I like the concept of it, and I would imagine there'd be a great atmosphere. I wouldn't get too sniffy about the route, as long as it went through plenty of interesting bits too.

It'd be quite a spectacle, and it's not all about scenery.

Go for it Boris I say!

Ooooh, me legs...

posted by Oh heck... [47 posts]
5th April 2011 - 14:41

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How about they close the M25 and the 30,000 people can ride around there. It's a lot of people to plan for, so they'll have a lot of room on the motorway, and given the average speed on the M25 is about 15mph anyway, it would be a great demonstration of how bikes are again faster than cars in a busy traffic situation. Of course there would be the obligatory contra-flow section, and even when closed there'll be a tosser in a BMW carving people up, but hey, it's the UK!

On the more serious side, it's good for Boris to dream big, no matter what his motivation, and if this helps to get more people out on their bikes, (and proving to naysayers that it's safe when they don't get mown down the instant their front wheel touches the asphalt)well, good on you Boris!

posted by Myriadgreen [89 posts]
5th April 2011 - 14:42

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They should go through the City. On a Sunday it is practically empty.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1333 posts]
5th April 2011 - 15:02

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now that I would go for. Thinking
A mass start and a full loop of the M25 sounds ace!!

posted by mrchrispy [285 posts]
5th April 2011 - 15:10

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Having just ridden "The Tour of Flanders for cycle tourists and mountain bikers" which allows much of the same route as the pros the following day to be ridden with partial road closures and traffic controls to allow cycle priority I have to say that I like the fact that someone is proposing something similar here. It was a fantastic event and there were something like 20,000 riders across 7 routes. I know we like to knock everything in the UK (and my friends told me I shouldn't expect the same sort of service / food stops etc on UK sportive rides, this being my first ever) but Saturday last was one of the best days I have ever spent on a bike and if it could be done here that would be great. Now I wonder if they could brew some Belgian style beers for the finish line........

Shut up legs

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posted by slow-cyclo [74 posts]
6th April 2011 - 0:04

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OldRidgeback wrote:
There are some interesting bits of road in London and that includes some not so flat bits too.

This. With closed roads, this could be brilliant - not the Etape or Marmotte in terms of challenge, but why try to compete with them on their terms? The UK can't match the Alps, Pyrenees or Dolomites, so seems like a good idea to go for a different flavour.

My main concern would be that it would be far too crowded, but I suspect the 30,000 number is massively optimistic.

posted by step-hent [663 posts]
6th April 2011 - 17:00

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When this was first mooted back in 2005 it was costed at £5.5m so Ken said go away and make it cheaper which is how we ended up with Freewheel/Skyride.

Sponsorship may lighten the load on the public purse but there's still a myriad of other ways to promote cycling in London which offer better value.

No mention in the piece about charity involvement which is a major component of the Cape Argus and underpins its continued success.

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posted by iDavid [47 posts]
6th April 2011 - 19:22

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step-hent wrote:
The UK can't match the Alps, Pyrenees or Dolomites

I keep hearing this, but then it also applies to Belgium, Holland and northern France, and they manage to have interesting races and sportives (Paris-Roubaix challenge debacle aside.) And Britain has much bigger hills than those regions. Has anyone been watching the Vuelta al País Vasco this week? That is a great race, ten thousand times more interesting than any Tour of Britain since it came back in 2004, held on roads that are not too dissimilar to many in the Yorkshire Dales or Welsh mountains. We could easily find routes for either a tough one-day classic worthy of Boonen and Cancellara, or a one-week early season tour capable of attracting Contador and the Schlecks. Of all the things holding back cycling as a sport in this country, landscape isn't one of them.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
6th April 2011 - 22:14

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handlebarcam wrote:
step-hent wrote:
The UK can't match the Alps, Pyrenees or Dolomites

I keep hearing this, but then it also applies to Belgium, Holland and northern France, and they manage to have interesting races and sportives (Paris-Roubaix challenge debacle aside.) And Britain has much bigger hills than those regions.

But this is my point - Belgium, Holland and Northern France don't try to compete with the Tour or Giro, or the Etape or the Marmotte - they do something different, something well suited to their landscape. Races are perhaps different, but a sportive doesn't have to have mountains or cobbles to be challenging or interesting. For example, my favourite sportive is in Sweden, and is quite flat, smooth, fast and very long and extremely well organised. Around 20,000 people did it last year and slightly more will do it this year. It doesn't need cobbles or mountains to be interesting.

I'm not saying we should copy that format either though. What I'm saying is that if we stop focusing on what every other country does to make their events good, and focus on what could set the UK apart from the rest, we might get something with the unique character which makes a good event great.

I do agree that landscape doesn't hold the UK back in terms of races to attract the big boys though - we have some fantastic and very varied terrain. Perhaps the issue is that, with limited public interest (although that is hopefully changing through city centre crit racing) the sponsors don't put pressure on riders to ride here.

posted by step-hent [663 posts]
7th April 2011 - 9:58

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You obviously haven't ridden much in Essex. There's a massive amount of country lanes that are far from dull.

posted by pmr [164 posts]
7th April 2011 - 10:16

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