The RideLondon-Surrey 100 sportive – the largest cyclosportive in the world in terms of participant numbers – already cancelled this year, may not return in 2021. But with event owner London Marathon Events (LME) revealing it has withdrawn its application to the UCI to hold the men’s WorldTour race which uses the same route, the signs are not good.
Meanwhile, Surrey County Council says its cabinet is still undecided whether to support the event in 2022 and beyond, with the decision delayed because of the coronavirus crisis, and is warning cyclists planning to take to the county’s roads on the weekend this year’s RideLondon was supposed to have been held to stay away.
Yesterday evening, LME announced that it hopes RideLondon will return next year, and is in discussions with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) with a view to staging the event on 30 May, an earlier slot than usual, including the RideLondon FreeCycle, and the women’s circuit race, the RideLondon Classique.
However, it added that “Plans to include a mass participation sportive in 2021 are still being reviewed and LME has withdrawn the application to host the RideLondon-Surrey Classic, the men’s UCI WorldTour race, in 2021.”
Event director Hugh Brasher said: “Our vision at London Marathon Events is Inspiring Activity and we have exciting plans to work with partners, such as the London Cycling Campaign and Wheels for Wellbeing, to develop FreeCycle in 2021 and support more people to get on a bike and get cycling.
“RideLondon has always championed gender parity and led the way in offering equal prize money and exposure for women’s cycling.
“We are working to develop that support further by putting women’s professional cycling centre stage. By moving to a date in late May, it also allows us the opportunity to rejoin the UCI Women’s WorldTour as there are no date clashes with other races.”
RideLondon was first held in 2013 to provide a legacy from the previous year’s Olympic Games.
This year’s event had been scheduled to be held on the weekend of 15-16 August, but LME announced in May that it had decided to cancel it since it was impossible to stage it safely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, organisers have launched a ‘virtual’ edition of the event, encouraging people to get out on their bikes and ride 100 miles – or 46 or 19 miles to reflect the shorter routes – or the FreeCycle, to raise money for the charity’s that face a cash shortfall due to the actual event being cancelled.
Called My Prudential RideLondon, the event, which has a dedicated website where participants can register, takes place on 15 and 16 August.
Yesterday, however, Surrey County Council urged “cyclists and particularly big groups of cyclists who may be considering recreating the event on Surrey roads on 16 August refrain from doing so.
“Volumes of cyclists on roads that aren’t closed to traffic or pedestrians will not have the required safety measures in place.
“This will undoubtedly lead to injuries and disruption and undue pressure on the Emergency Services in Surrey,” the council added.
Earlier this year, the council held a consultation on whether to continue to host the event from 2021-2025, with its current contract ending this year.
It added at the time that it would be willing to stage the event on its roads next year to allow for a smooth transition, something it reiterated yesterday as it revealed that there would be no decision on its continued involvement until October.
“Following the consultation with residents which took place earlier this year, a cabinet decision has yet to be made on the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey cycling event continuing to pass through Surrey beyond 2021,” the council said.
“This was due to be reviewed at April Cabinet but due to the coronavirus crisis, the RideLondon-Surrey Cabinet decision was postponed, as other more immediate decisions needed to be actioned. It is now scheduled to be considered at an October Cabinet meeting.
“With regard to the future of Surrey hosting future Prudential Ride London-Surrey events, we are still committed to hosting the event again in Surrey in 2021,” the council continued.
“We will need to review operationally how the impact of Coronavirus will affect the mechanics of hosting a mass participation event of this scale. These implications will become more evident as we all begin to understand the legacy of coronavirus and its impact on society.”
While safety is clearly the paramount consideration, there must also be a question mark over whether the council – or any potential successor in the counties surrounding the capital – can be seen to support an event which attracts vocal local opposition, with the current crisis putting a squeeze on funding.
Moreover, with the council receiving less than its originally allocated share of the first tranche of the government’s emergency active travel funding, it may decide that money is better spent there and encourage people to cycle for everyday journeys, rather than focusing on a sport-focused event, albeit one that attracts many cyclists participating in a sportive for the first time.
Speaking about the potential plans for the capital to host RideLondon next year, Heidi Alexander, deputy mayor for transport, said: “Our focus for the 2021 event will be to inspire as many people as possible – of all ages and demographics – to get out in the capital and enjoy cycling.
“The Mayor’s new Streetspace programme is already fast-tracking the transformation of streets across our city to enable many more people to walk and cycle. The format for 2021 needs to be appropriate for the new world that we are living in and inspire as many people as possible to switch to cycling.
“FreeCycle offers a unique opportunity for people of all abilities to cycle through our great city on traffic-free roads and the Classique will support and spotlight women’s professional cycling in the way it deserves,” she added.
Julie Harrington, Chief Executive of British Cycling, commented: “Enabling more people to choose cycling is vital if we want to ease pressure on public transport and help those for whom getting around by bike is not an option.
“Together with our colleagues at RideLondon and the Mayor of London’s office, we are delighted to support their work to encourage people to get on their bikes.”
More details of plans for RideLondon 2021 will be released in the coming months.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.