Road Cycling News

Box Hill spectator capacity increased to 'up to 15,000' for Olympic road race

London 2012 organisers have increased capacity on Box Hill to up to 15,000 for the Olympic road race on Saturday July 28.

Mark Cavendish won the Olympic test event in August but capacity was limited to just 3,500 on Box Hill (© National Trust/David Levenson)

Box Hill’s Zig Zag Road is set to be the race’s key battleground, with the men’s peloton tackling nine laps of a 15.5km circuit.

Capacity was limited to just 3,500 for the test event in August, won by Mark Cavendish, in order to protect the National Trust land, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation – but riders and spectators complained of a muted atmosphere.

But after consultation with the National Trust and Natural England, capacity has been increased on both the Box Hill climb and Donkey Green. Access will be ticketed, with details to be announced ‘in due course’.

“We are delighted to welcome people to watch the Olympic road race from the Zig Zag Road and Donkey Green at Box Hill,” said London 2012 director of sport Debbie Jevans. “We will give people the chance to see a generous amount of road race at one of the best stretches of road which we are able to do following the test event and our learnings there.

“Spectators will have a unique viewing position on the route, there is another 120km of route which is free to spectators, including some great points through London and the Royal Parks.”

Following the test event, both British Cycling president Brian Cookson and UCI president Pat McQuaid complained to Locog.

Cookson said: “Following the test event, both myself and UCI president Pat McQuaid made our views about the unsatisfactory arrangements on Box Hill clear to Locog.  Both before and since that time, there has been considerable input from the technical representatives of both bodies into the planning process, and I am pleased that this, together with the public and media pressure, has now resulted in a much more satisfactory situation for cycling fans than had originally been the case.”

Zig Zag Road's hairpins will provide the best viewing point (© National Trust)

The National Trust will begin work to remove scrub along Zig Zag Road on January 30 in order to facilitate the increased capacity. The road will be closed for a week, while the laggy surface is due to be re-laid in April. A BT fibre optic cable will also be installed to improve race communication.

National Trust countryside manager for Box Hill Andy Wright said: “The scrub alongside the road has very few species living in it so when we remove it, it doesn’t matter if people walk in those areas. Gradually, over the years, that land will turn into chalk grassland which is a much richer habitat – supporting around 60 to 100 species of plants, animals and insects per square metre.”

The men’s race will cover 250km, starting on The Mall and heading out to Surrey, completing nine laps of Box Hill before the flat-run back to the capital, finishing in front of Buckingham Palace. The women’s peloton will contest a 140km route a day later, with two laps of Box Hill.

World champion Cavendish will attempt to win Great Britain’s first gold medal of the Games just six days after the final stage of the Tour de France.

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