Friday, 10 August 2012

Britains 'One-Day' Wait Is Over, For London Anyway...

When Boris Johnson announced today the launch of 'Ride London', I had mixed emotions. 'Ride London' is a two day Olympic Legacy cycling event featuring mass participation rides, amateur races and the nations first UCI ranked 'one-day race'. This, as an 'event' makes me happy. Cycling is in the limelight, finally, and the nation is taking note. Any UCI ranked race that we can add to the British calendar is a massive achievement, a huge step forward and whatever you come to read in the next couple of paragraphs, this remains true. So why am I feeling a little underwhelmed?...

Though the UCI are yet to categorise it, the race is expected to be a 1.1 - the same standard as Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne and Dwars door Vlaanderen in whats considered the third tier of racing. Races like this usually attract some WorldTour attention, but not on the same level as the monuments, such as Flanders or Roubaix. Spectators can expect to see some pretty big name riders though, something the Country has been missing with the Tour of Britain the only exception and this is obviously good for British cycling. The official race name will be the 'RideLondon Classic', is that a fair representation?

My gripes here are with the route, which will start at the Olympic park, take in central London and head out into the Surrey hills in much the same manner as this years Olympic road race. Flanders, this ain't. The official website describes the race as:

A unique opportunity for fans of cycling to support their heroes. Home TV audiences and spectators will have their own world-class one-day race to be proud of, while the beauty and splendour of the Surrey Hills will be showcased to international audiences more familiar with the terrain of the Grand Tours and Spring Classics.

I think 'world-class one-day race' is stretching it some. This is central Larndarn, city streets, dustbins and industrial estates. Is this really all we have to offer to the cycling public? I know it's an Olympic Legacy event, but does this mean it should be so capital-centric yet again? This is where cycling sometimes disappoints me, this is less about a cycling spectacle, and far more about the money. London's compacted 7 million residents will certainly make the race pay - oorganisers, sponsors, broadcasters, stall holders, businesses will all cash in handsomely and yes, cycling needs the money. I'm well aware the number of races to go bust in recent years because of lack of funding and holding a race in a highly populated area does guarantee an audience and their hard earned money. But what of us north of Watford?

The Peak District, The Brecon Beacons, The Black Mountains, The Highlands, The Lake-District, Dartmoor, the Cotswolds - all of these would make for a real cycling spectacle easily capable of rivalling Paris-Roubaix, The Ardennes and Flanders - but instead we head into the familiar territory of 'Box (barely a) Hill and our capital city. The route is awful, but profitable. So what does this mean for the actual racing?

Well, it won't be won by a 'classics' rider for a start. This is destined to be just another sprinters race and however entertaining you may find a sprint finish, it certainly doesn't compete with the true spectacle of a 'classic' where strongmen go on loan attacks and the puncheurs crunch their way up steep climbs. Instead we get a flat(ish) race and a 15 second period of excitement. Mark Cavendish didn't win the Olympic road race! I hear you cry - and no, he didn't, but that was a question of tactics and in the end, even after 9 laps of Box Hill the sprinters still made it to the finish line only seconds behind the race winner, and I doubt the RideLondon Classic will navigate Box Hill as many as 9 times.

I don't want to sound negative, but Britain is a nation of bicycle lovers, this extends far and beyond the capital - can't we have something that doesn't involve London for a change? Can't we show the world the real beauty of our varied landscapes? Can't we bring wealth and entertainment to other communities? Can't we have a race that will actually mimic a 'Classic'? One that tests the riders on a brutal climb? One that provides some actual entertainment other than a bit of flag waving and a 15 second sprint? Can't Cancellara and Boonen come and battle valiantly until the bitter end? Please?

OK, so look, I'm a little disappointed that Britain's first 1.1 one-day classic is going to provide such a dismal spectacle, but, all things considered I would certainly rather have the race than not, and cycling in Britain is good news, and you never know, if 'RideLondon' goes down well, I might be watching Fabian Cancellara climbing Mow Cop in agony sooner than I think...

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you.

    What a truly world class event they could have had they gone for some of the regions and routes you mention. A bit if courage, to break out if the 'safe' London-Surrey setting would be a great thing.