Next year’s London cycling festival, the annual Olympic legacy event announced yesterday, is to feature the first edition of a one-day professional race that British Cycling hopes will secure UCI WorldTour status and become a regular feature of the cycling calendar, attracting star riders from around the world.
While such an event may never quite achieve the stature of the likes of Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo or the oldest Classic of them all, Liège–Bastogne–Liège – which as well as having more than 100 years of history behind them are also much longer than the 160 kilometres or so envisaged for the London race – there are examples of other, more recently established, races securing a permanent place in the sport.
Those include Spain’s Clasica Ciclistica de San Sebastian, which dates from 1981, and more recently Italy’s Montepaschi Strade Bianche (formerly the Montepaschi Eroica), founded in 2007 and the two Candian races, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and sister event, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal, which made their debut in 2010.
Moreover, with the London event falling in August, between the end of the Tour de France and the start of the Vuelta and also outside the Spring and Autumn Classics seasons, there would appear to be room in the calendar for it.
Certainly, British Cycling’s Sport and Performance Director Jonny Clay, speaking to the BBC, believes that the proposed event, which early indications suggest will follow a similar route to last year’s Olympic test event, the London-Surrey Cycle Classic, can become an established part of the pro cycling year, saying "I'd be surprised if in a few years it isn't one of the world's biggest cycling races."
Cycling commentator Phil Liggett has also given his backing to the proposal. "Britain now leads the world in track cycling and I'm sure that will be reflected in the Olympics," he stated.
"And after Mark Cavendish's incredible road race world title win in Denmark and winning the Sports Personality of the Year award, he has the profile now, as does the sport.
"The obvious next step is to bring a major road race to the heart of London. We were going to see the Olympic road race and then silence for the years ahead, but that is not going to be happen now.
"We will eventually bring the best riders, who are household names now, to London.
"This is no longer a Cinderella, cloth-cap image sport. It's a very highly financed professional business and we've got the best riders in the world,” Liggett added.
While British Cycling hopes that the event will find a place on the UCI WorldTour calendar, the governing body’s spokesman Enrico Carpani told Bloomberg that achieving that status would be unrealistic for the inaugural edition next year.
“We know that the British cycling has big development plans, and we are very pleased with it,” he explained.
“But so far, there are no projects that have been submitted for any new race and so we can say today that for 2013, it would be really impossible to have a new race in the World Tour calendar.”
Between 1989 and 1997, the UK hosted a round of the UCI World Cup, the Wincanton Classic, whose list of winners is dominated by Italians including riders of the stature of Gianni Bugno and Andrea Tafi, as well as Max Sciandri, winner in 1995, the year he obtained British nationality ahead of the Atlanta Olympics, where he won bronze in the men’s road race.
First raced in Newcastle-upon-Tyne before moving to Brighton then Leeds and, finally, Rochester, the Wincanton Classic was replaced in the calendar in 1998 by Germany’s HEW Cyclassics, now the Vattenfall Cyclassics.
Like the planned London cycling festival, the latter race also features a mass participation ride alongside the professional race, with the event in the British capital being presented as a cycling version of the London Marathon.
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.