Olympic chiefs have unveiled the route for the 2012 cycling road race, and as might be expected, it goes far beyond the central London turf favoured by Boris Bikers.
The race will begin at The Mall, as riders pile out of central London toward the southwest, passing through Westminster, Kensington, and Hammersmith & Fulham, crossing the bridge at Putney before a scenic nip into Richmond Park and back over the Thames at Richmond Bridge.
Next is Twickenham and another Royal Park (Bushey), and from there it’s full pelt into Surrey’s stockbroker belt: Walton, Weybridge, West Byfleet, and Dorking, before riders tackle the punishing switchbacks around Box Hill. The route back into town takes in Leatherhead, Esher, and Hampton Court Palace, before rejoining the outbound section in Richmond Park and finishing up in The Mall.
The gruelling race (250km for men, 140km for women; the extra distance for the men’s will be made up during the Box Hill section) should provide a touch of local interest for the good burghers of Surrey. In Beijing, Nicole Cooke won the gold medal for Britain, and will be challenging again in 2012. For the men, Mark Cavendish will also be a good contender for the podium. Rather ambitiously, Brendan Gallagher in the Telegraph has already made his recommendations on the best places to watch the race.
A test race will be held this August, and the real races will be highlights of the opening weekend of the Games.
Image of cyclists in the London Grand Prix by McTumshie.