Olympic test event: Sunday riders sneak into peloton, but drivers fume at road closures

Gridlock takes some by surprise despite TfL awareness campaign, while amateur riders share road with pros

by Simon_MacMichael   August 15, 2011  

London 2012 logo union flag.jpg

Top riders taking part in yesterday’s London –Surrey Cycle Classic found themselves sharing the road with a couple of members of the public who managed to get onto the closed roads of the 140km Olympic test event.

Aemon Atkinson and a friend had already cycled 70 kilometres on Sunday morning to find a spot near Richmond Park to watch the race, and after the main bunch went by, they took to the road themselves to ride to the finish without realising that there were still riders out on the course behind them.

"We thought we were going to get arrested being on the road while the race was in progress but no one batted an eyelid," Atkinson told Reuters when he was interviewed near the finish of the race, won by Mark Cavendish, on The Mall.

"A few team cars went by and thought 'What the bloody hell's going on here?' but everyone was cheering us which made us go on a bit more."

After riding to Putney Bridge, they crossed the Thames and suddenly found themselves overtaken by riders who had been left behind by the lead group.

"They came past us like a bat out of hell, so we tried to latch on for our 15 minutes of fame. The spectators urged us on."

While the pros taking part in the race could look forward to a post-race massage, there was no such respite for Atkinson and his friend, who still faced a 70-kilometre ride home.

We're not sure whether this picture on Flickr shows Atkinson - it was taken in Richmond Park itslef, so possibly not - so it could be that he and his friend weren't the only ones to enjoy a moment of fame yesterday.

The escapade wasn't appreciated by the pros by the look of things, perhaps unsurprisingly given the safety implications.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has been highlighting the traffic chaos caused by road closures in South West London and Surrey while the event was being held, despite a high-profile campaign by Transport for London to warn local residents and businesses about potential disruption.

The newspaper reported that roads in Central London had been shut from 4am on Sunday, with some further away from the centre of the capital closed from 8pm on Saturday evening, and the course not being fully reopened until 4pm on Sunday afternoon.

One driver, 56-year-old Alan Ashworth from Bromley, who was travelling to work in Kensington, abandoned his car on the Kings Road at 2.15pm, nearly two hours after the race had finished. He completed the last two miles of his journey by foot.

“It was absolute gridlock,” he claimed. “I was trying to cross Fulham Road and was turned back. I asked the race steward when the race finished and he said it was an hour ago. He said he was from out of town and didn’t really know what was going on.

“I was told to go to Shepherd’s Bush if I wanted to get to Kensington, he added. “But there were no cyclists flying by, just hundreds of these stewards. It was absolute nonsense.”

Someone else caught up in traffic was TV presenter Eamonn Holmes, whose employers, Sky, sponsor the Great Britain cycling team, although judging from his comments on Twitter, Holmes himself isn’t a huge fan of road cycling: “Big tailbacks on A3 and A3 approaches to M25 and in other direction to Wimbledon. Due to flamin [sic] Olympic bikes. Keep sport in a stadium.”

The Mail added that the situation got particularly heated near Earls Court when a wedding convoy found itself caught up in a traffic jam.

The newspaper also quoted an unnamed marshal who described the situation in Putney as “chaotic” and said that neither he nor his colleagues had been told when the roads would be reopened.

“This is supposed to be a test event and it shows there is a lot more work to be done,” he said. “I am from Lincoln and we have cycle events all the time that pass without any bother. It’s been a long day with a lot of angry motorists.”

Debbie Jevans, London 2012 Director of Sport, commented: “I want to thank London and Surrey residents for changing their normal Sunday to accommodate this race and to the tens of thousands who lined the route to support the athletes.”

Leon Daniels, TfL’s managing director for surface transport, added: “A huge amount of planning and delivery went into making this event happen. The vast majority of people appeared to heed our advice to plan their travel and used tube and rail services, while others chose to enjoy viewing the race in their local area.”

It should be said that the Mail’s article is accompanied by some cracking images of the event itself, although the captions leave something to be desired – “The leading pack did draw some support from cycle fans as they hit the home straight down The Mall” is a bit of an understatement given the huge crowds that lined much of the route, compared by some to those that greeted the Tour de France when it staged its Grand Depart in the British capital in 2007.

23 user comments

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Keep Holmes at home!

FFS. How many months have these half witted drivers had to make alternative arrangements for ONE day?

"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [428 posts]
15th August 2011 - 10:10


Oh well. If it is going to annoy a few drivers, then I guess we can do without the Olympic road races.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1452 posts]
15th August 2011 - 10:45

1 Like

Anyone got photos of Eamonn Holmes on a bike (or doing ANY form of exercise?)

I've tried and only found a snap of him playing golf - must've been crazy golf or a round played in the famous stadium at Troon/Sandwich/Wentworth ad nauseum

andylul's picture

posted by andylul [418 posts]
15th August 2011 - 10:47


Holmes himself isn’t a huge fan of road cycling

Holmes himself isn't a huge fan of any exercise by the looks of it.

Love that Flickr picture:

Looks like a slight lapse in security somewhere on the test event course let this guy join the pro's for a few minutes.. He looks pleased though..

He's probably just pleased that his Assos kit hasn't split at the seams, and his expensive bike cracked under his weight. Plain Face

posted by Matt_S [227 posts]
15th August 2011 - 10:54


Matt_S wrote:
He's probably just pleased that his Assos kit hasn't split at the seams, and his expensive bike cracked under his weight. Plain Face

Harsh (but fair)

andylul's picture

posted by andylul [418 posts]
15th August 2011 - 11:23


"The Mail added that the situation got particularly heated near Earls Court when a wedding convoy found itself caught up in a traffic jam."

That had nothing to do with the Classic, that road is always like that...

If that ride is important to you, you'll find a way to get it in!

road slapper's picture

posted by road slapper [95 posts]
15th August 2011 - 11:23

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9528 posts]
15th August 2011 - 13:20


All for the criticism of the two people that joined the route.

However, the closure of the roads was seemingly totally bizarre, and if it's the same as that next year, I'll be out the country for the weekend.

Having watched the riders fly past at Kingston Bridge, including the ultimate stragglers about 10mins back, I rode out towards Windsor, and came back via Walton. Bearing in mind the ride had passed through the area over 2 hours previously, and all the people had long since dispersed the roads were still closed and I was allowed to cross, but not ride them.

In speaking to a couple of police guys, they said they were waiting for the all-clear from the event organiser, and until they'd got that, they couldn't open the roads. Equally, they couldn't understand it either. It sounded like they were remaining closed to allow all the barriers to be gathered up.

Bearing in mind that scaffolders, builders, dustmen etc all work from trucks with traffic around them, this seemed a bit daft.

Overall, whilst it was a good event, anyone in a car trying to get somewhere that already didn't like cyclists won't have had an epiphany by any means...and I can't really blame them

posted by the-yorkshire-p... [180 posts]
15th August 2011 - 13:50


Simon - you nearly gave us a heart attack! Something I suspect would do the same to EH if he were required to ride one.

Nice to see him looking so svelte (albeit 6 years ago) - I suggest a caption comp. I'll start with

"Greggs is that-a-way"

andylul's picture

posted by andylul [418 posts]
15th August 2011 - 13:57


For caption competition:

"Follow that pie van!"

posted by headfirst [83 posts]
15th August 2011 - 14:06


I've just read the Wail's coverage. They're showing pictures of a well-attended race, huge crowds and a rousing Brit victory, and whining about traffic disruption. Glass half empty, or perhaps stolen by te gayz and immigrants.


posted by BigDummy [315 posts]
15th August 2011 - 14:35


"One driver, 56-year-old Alan Ashworth from Bromley, who was travelling to work in Kensigton..."

Typo aside, I have some advice for Mr Ashworth: take a train to London Victoria (between 16 and 32 minutes from Bromley on a Sunday), take the Underground Victoria Line northbound to Oxford Circus (roughly 7 minutes), change onto the Central Line westbound to Notting Hill Gate (roughly 9 minutes) and then stroll down to Kensington - as and when the Circle Line is actually running again, you can take one train direct from Victoria to High Street Kensington. I know, amazing what public transport can do for the public, isn't it.

And as for those who joined the race on Sunday - cocks.

dullard's picture

posted by dullard [140 posts]
15th August 2011 - 18:22


"Wide berth: Even The Mall in London had to be cordoned off to allow the cyclists through"

Umm, please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't The Mall always closed to traffic on a Sunday?

The Whale aside, this was a great event and it was nice to see that a bike race can still draw a crowd in the UK!

posted by mattlandells [1 posts]
15th August 2011 - 20:49


What a dickhead getting onto the course and trying to ride along.

Sorry but there are major safety implications doing this. Looks like a typical MAMIL looking at the beergut under the Assos top.

posted by gazzaputt [196 posts]
16th August 2011 - 14:51


Wouldn't it be much easier if they just ran the barrier collection trucks, say, half an hour behind the broom wagon convoy and thus, progressively opened the roads on way back?

Would need some planning and practice but much smoother if executed well and should reduce road closures substantially.

Of course, other road users could also keep their eyes open and read the flood of signs advertising road closures well in advance, instead of ignoring them and cribbing on their daddy's media platform later.

As for the now famous assos cyclist, give him a break. Doubt that his initial act was deliberate. Yes, he should've stopped the moment he realised the race was still on but the real fault again lies with the organisers for not briefing stewards well enough about when the race passes and the cyclists are allowed to cross roads.

My issue was with the barriers in Richmond Park. I had hoped that at least inside the park it would be open viewing without the barriers.


rbx's picture

posted by rbx [243 posts]
16th August 2011 - 20:36


the picture of the guy on the course is brilliant, however I hope it doesn;t set a precedent as things could get silly with people trying to join in.

posted by pmr [193 posts]
16th August 2011 - 23:09


We managed to get tickets up Box Hill but it was a farce. Nowhere on the website did it say that we had to push the bikes up the off road path (werent allowed to ride, was told off by the stewards although there was hardly anyone there!)to a cycle park at the top deisgned for 3500 people.

But there wasnt! there was probably 1000 max! and to top it off which we all thought was just bang out of order was they made a guy in a wheelchair take the off road path to the viewing points and through the woods!!! now what would be the problem pushing him up the zig zag road keep in mind the peloton were still an hour away at this point?!!! awful treatment!

Only good thing was because the roads were still closed on the way back to traffic and the route took us home, we got to ride the route home which was brilliant. Could they not keep it closed for the Olympic day and just let people ride the route and have the experience of roads traffic free? All in all, im glad i wont be paying £50 for a viewing at Box Hill when you can see more of the race in the royal parks which we will be doing....Cav for Gold! Thinking

numnutt's picture

posted by numnutt [9 posts]
16th August 2011 - 23:43


numnutt wrote:
Only good thing was because the roads were still closed on the way back to traffic and the route took us home, we got to ride the route home which was brilliant. Could they not keep it closed for the Olympic day and just let people ride the route and have the experience of roads traffic free?

Bear in mind the men's road race is on the Saturday, the women's (on the same course) on the Sunday.

It won't be till much nearer the Olympics that we'll find out what that means in terms of road closures, but given that for last Sunday's race they began on Saturday evening in some places, and the men's race will go on till late Saturday afternoon, there must be a high possibility that the route will be closed to traffic all weekend?

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9528 posts]
17th August 2011 - 7:17


Just out of interest: wouldn't it have been possible to have "just on time" full road closures??

I mean: allow cars and other road users to CROSS (not use) the race route, and close the barriers just before the guys pass! There were plenty enough marshalls for that, and that would have avoided situations like people having to do huge detours around one fully closed road. Seems a bit too much to close the whole thing for all that time before and after the race has passed really!

There will always be people in their cars complaining and not knowing, but that seems a simple enough solution!

And @rbx, the barriers in the park were probably also for the deer, wouldn't want to have one of those cross when the guys come through at 30mph!

ekynoxe's picture

posted by ekynoxe [49 posts]
17th August 2011 - 8:45


These cyclists should have been spotted by marshalls with radios (there weren't that many) and the should have had the motorcycle outriders stop them.

The amount of barriers put out would have taken quite some time to retrieve, although if they had used their marshalls to assist with this it could have been done much quicker (once the race passed the marshalls were instructed to wait to be stood down - what a waste of staff time)

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [295 posts]
17th August 2011 - 10:10


there are always complaints from motorists re: any road closure for whatever reason even if given months prior warning of the impending event! remember a licence to drive is a privelidge not a right to own me being amongst them give other road users the courtesy they deserve sometimes. Thinking

andrew miners's picture

posted by andrew miners [46 posts]
17th August 2011 - 11:58

1 Like

"Hurrumph. Damn the royal wedding too, that meant road closures, and head of state visits, and protests, any form of public occasion or sport, that BLOODY LONDON MARATHON TOO and all of it can go to hell.. WHY CAN'T I JUST DRIVE MY CAR WHERE I WANT WHEN I WANT IN A BUSY CITY! I mean, it's just ridiculous. I paid a lot for this car! Why does everyone else want to drive when i want to drive? Why can't they all use public transport FOR GAWD'S SAKE! Or . er.. bikes? hmm well yes. BLOODY TRAFFIC! ARRRGH WHY OH WHY!""

: )

posted by james-o [229 posts]
17th August 2011 - 12:50

1 Like

It would seem the race organisers are at fault . When I marshalled inthe English part of the Tour De France some years back, specific instructions were given, we knew when the closure ( rolling one) would take place and how long after we could re-open the road. To my recollection it was about a half an hour.
Marshalls shoudl be fully instructed, I was last year in the Tour of Britain.. no problems there either.

Poor organistation like this endangers public goodwill.
Sian Charlton


posted by barogerl [26 posts]
17th August 2011 - 14:23

1 Like