The number of spectators on Box Hill’s hairpins during the London 2012 Olympic road race is set to be limited to protect the National Trust site.
London 2012 organisers (Locog) have commissioned detailed ecological surveys and reports of the area to ensure Box Hill, a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and an SAC (Special Area of Conservation), is protected during the Games.
But while campervans and tents may line the Tour de France’s iconic climbs, with fans fighting it out for the best spot days in advance of the race passing through, the banks of Box Hill’s iconic bends will remain off limits.
“Box Hill is one of the most important nature conservation sites in Europe,” a National Trust spokesman told RoadCyclingUK.
“It is home to a huge variety of wildlife including a number or rare and protected species. We are working very closely with Locog and Natural England to ensure the sensitive habitat of Box Hill is protected during Games time.
“We know that the banks of Zig Zag Road are highly sensitive areas and therefore it is likely there will be limited spectator numbers along this section of the race.”
The road races will, having left London, tackle a 15.5km Box Hill circuit which climbs Zig Zag Road, with the men’s peloton completing nine laps and the women two, before heading back to the capital to finish in front of Buckingham Palace on The Mall.
Both races, on July 28 and 29, are among the few free-to-watch events during the Olympic, with only the finish area requiring tickets – although Locog are yet to confirm how spectators will be managed on Box Hill.
But the National Trust insists there will still be scope for spectators to enjoy the race from its key battleground.
“One of the less sensitive areas, where there is more scope for spectators, is at the top of the hill, near the car park and view point,” added their spokesman.
“We are working very hard with Locog, Surrey County Council and all the local district councils to make sure the race is an enjoyable event and that there are plenty of spectator opportunities along the route.”
Simon Lillistone, who rode at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, is Locog’s cycling road race manager and said they have a legal obligation to protect Box Hill.
“As a responsible organiser we have to respect the natural environment in which we are holding the race,” said Lillistone.
“There are European laws and legislations that mean that we have to respect the habitats in that area.”