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Papal visit to force Tour of Britain finale switch to Richmond Park?

Security concerns mean Met will not entertain two major Central London events on same day

The first Papal visit to Britain since 1982 has landed Tour of Britain organisers with a headache, with security concerns reportedly forcing them to abandon plans for a showpiece finale to the race in Central London and instead switch the closing stage to a closed circuit in Richmond Park in the southwest of the capital.

With campaigners for issues such as gay rights already planning demonstrations around Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, police resources are likely to be stretched, and it is understood that the Metropolitan Police has blocked a Central London finish for the race on September 18 due to problems in holding two such high-profile events, both of which will attract huge crowds, at the same time in the centre of the capital.

The Daily Mail reports that instead, Richmond Park – not too far away from Wimbledon, where the Pope will reportedly be staying with the Papal Nuncio, Buckingham Palace being out of the question due to the complex protocols between the British Crown and the Roman Catholic Church – will host the final stage of the race. 

Craig Brophy of the Tour of Britain told "We have been aware of the situation for a while. We are in discussions with our partner, Transport for London with reference to Saturday 18 September. As soon as we've concluded those discussions, we'll be announcing Stage 8 and its location at The Tour of Britain launch taking place on 20 April."

The last Papal visit to Britain was by Pope John Paul II in 1982, a year in which a fresh-faced Malcolm Elliott took the Hot Spots sprints title in the Milk Race. Now riding for Motorpoint Marshall’s Pasta, the 48-year-old, still the only Englishman to have won a jersey at a Grand Tour through his victory in the points classification at the 1989 Vuelta, recently confirmed that this will be his final season as a pro, with the Tour of Britian providing a swansong to a remarkable career.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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