Cyclists are set to take over London’s streets this weekend as the capital hosts the inaugural Prudential RideLondon event, the Olympic and Paralympic legacy event dreamt up by the city’s mayor, Boris Johnson.
He’ll be one of 20,000 riders taking part in what promises to be one of the highlights of Saturday and Sunday’s programme, a 100-mile ride that follows much of the route of the London 2012 road races.
The weekend-long festival is being jointly organised by SweetSpot, who have arranged the Tour of Britain for the last decade and have secured the contract to put on that race for the next five years, and the company behind the London Marathon.
It’s the latter event, established in 1981, that perhaps best reflects the ambitions for this weekend’s festival, which combines mass participation events with elite men’s and women’s races – the BBC will be devoting four and a half hours of coverage to Sunday’s rides.
A number of celebrities have signed up for the RideLondon-Surrey 100 on Sunday, with the first riders setting off from the Olympic Park at 6am; besides the city’s mayor, there will also be former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, Olympic gold medallists Sally Gunnell and James Cracknell, as well as two women who won gold in the velodrome at London 2012 – Dani King and Joanna Rowsell.
On the previous evening, they will both have taken part in the Prudential RideLondon Grand Prix, a criterium on a circuit in the very heart of the capital, starting and finishing on The Mall and with the course following the roads on the perimeter of St James’s Park.
The same course – on closed roads, as are all of this weekend’s events – will host supporting races for handcyclists and juniors.
Here’s the programme of this weekend’s events:
Saturday 3 August
08:00, Bank junction, City of London
The other member of Team GB’s gold medal winning team pursuit line-up last summer, Laura Trott – who also won individual gold in the omnium – will be the official starter for an attempt led by former England rugby captain Martin Johnson to set a new world record for the most bicycles in a line.
09:00-16:00, City of London and City of Westminster
Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle; More than 50,000 riders are due to take part in this family-friendly event held on eight miles of closed roads.
17:00-19:45, The Mall
Sunday 4 August
06:00-08:00, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Start of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 featuring 20,000 amateur riders; after tackling the course which takes in the Surrey Hills, the first is expected to arrive on The Mall at 10:00, the last several hours later.
11:00, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Prudential RideLondon Festival, described as “a free community event featuring a variety of bike-based activities,” starts ahead of the team buses arriving ahead of the afternoon’s pro race.
12:45, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Start of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic, with a field headed by Tour de France points jersey winner, Peter Sagan of Cannondale (provisional start list here). There will also be a big screen at the Park to watch the race.
BBC coverage will be on Sunday 4 August from 11:30-14:00 on BBC2 and 16:30-18:30 on BBC1, while the entire Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic will be available to watch via the red button.
Event director Hugh Brasher, whose father Chris co-founded the London Marathon, said: "To have 4.5 hours of coverage on the BBC in the first year of Prudential RideLondon is fantastic.
"The BBC is a huge supporter of the event and the programmes will include highlights from all events and live coverage of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic."
Viewers in more than 100 countries around the world will also be able to watch the event on TV.
Iain Edmondson, Head of Major Events at London & Partners, commented: "The news that Prudential RideLondon will be seen in 111 countries across the world is very impressive for the first year of a new international event.
"I’m confident that people from around the world will be inspired to one day make the trip to London and experience the post-Olympic atmosphere in the city for themselves."
Recommended viewing points along the route of Sunday’s amateur and elite rides include Kingston-Upon-Thames , which is hosting a day-long cycling festival, including Rollapaluza, as well as market stalls and live music.
One person who won’t be there, but will be passing through – he’s taking part in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 – is Councillor Simon James, Kingston Council’s Lead Member for Sport and Olympic Legacy.
He said: “Twelve months ago, Kingston was a landmark location for the fantastic Olympic Cycle Road Race events. We now look forward to welcoming the cyclists, their friends, families and visitors to our historic town for another unforgettable day. “
Also riding in that event is Olympic team pursuit champion Joanna Rowsell, who comes from south west London herself and who will have raced in the Prudential RideLondon Grand Prix the previous evening.
Rowsell will be raising money for the charity Action Medical Research, and said: “I’ve never actually cycled 100 miles so it will be a great challenge for me too.
“I think the event is a fantastic way to celebrate one year on from winning gold at the Olympic Games and with a large section of the route being on my home training roads, I hope I will be able to assist the other Action riders with some local knowledge!”
Also on from now until Saturday is the Prudential RideLondon Cycling Show at ExCeL, where among other things you can have the chance to sit on the very throne where Sir Bradley Wiggins took the aplause after winning the time trial at last year's Olympics - the show is open from 10:00 to 17:00 on Thursday and Friday, and from 09:00 to 17:00 on Saturday.
Full details of that, and all the rest of the weekend's events, can be found on the Prudential RideLondon website.
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.