Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

100 Miles of Great British Heritage; Matthew Beard Gets Ready to Be One of the 20,000 Cyclists Participating in the First Prudential RideLondon

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

100 Miles of Great British Heritage; Matthew Beard Gets Ready to Be One of the 20,000 Cyclists Participating in the First Prudential RideLondon

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Beards

AS a sporting challenge, it is the equal of running the London Marathon and with a field of participants almost as big.

The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 "sportive" will take the 20,000 riders on a 100-mile course from the Olympic Stadium past the Tower of London and Harrods before they cross Chiswick Bridge and wind through picturesque Surrey villages.

Just after the halfway stage they will confront Leith Hill -- one of the tallest points in south-east England, and one certain to be a personal Everest for many riders. When they cross the finish line on The Mall, many will have spent a gruelling nine hours in the saddle.

Some 55,000 applied through the ballot to take part in the 100. The rump will be serious club riders, but many will be cycling enthusiasts attempting the 100-mile distance for the first time -- including the Mayor of London Boris Johnson who is bravely taking on the challenge after a minimal amount of training. Some 350,000 spectators will keep them pedalling by cheering them on from points all over the route.

A feature of big city marathons is that professional athletes share the course with lesser mortals. This formula will apply on Sunday, too. Some 13 Tour de France riders -- including green jersey winner, Slovakian Peter Sagan, and Briton David Millar -- take on the 140-mile course starting several hours after the amateur riders in the 100.

British Olympians Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Tour winner Chris Froome will not feature this year but if the event earns the respect of the international cycling body, UCI, as a top-rated 'classic', participation for top riders could be compulsory in future.

Instead, Joanna Rowsell and Dani King, champions of the Great Britain Olympic squad, will compete in the 100-mile event. It comes just 24 hours after they race in the women's Grand Prix, a 2km loop criterium around St James's Park, where they will battle it out with fellow Team GB Olympic champion Laura Trott.

The fourth event of the weekend's cycling festival is an entry-level FreeCycle tomorrow on an eight-mile loop in central London. With the roads closed to traffic, it will give the estimated 50,000 riders the chance to glide past Tower Bridge, Parliament and Buckingham Palace, stopping off as often as they like for entertainment, promotional and snacking opportunities. It is hoped some, with new-found confidence, will get in the saddle as a daily occurrence -- to cycle to work or shops -- in line with the Mayor's aim to "de-Lycrafy" riding as part of his grand plan to start the "century of the bike". With Government statistics showing the number of people involved regularly in sport dropping by 200,000 in the Olympic year, it's hoped Prudential RideLondon can reverse the decline.

Event director Hugh Brasher said: "London's winning Olympic bid provided political will to create [an] event of this magnitude and the ambition to inspire a generation. …

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