A year on from the London Olympic Games, elite cycling will return to the capital with the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic on Sunday August 4.
Back-to-back Tour de France green jersey winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale) tops the billing for the most prestigious one-day race to be held on these shores.
In all, the race will feature six UCI WorldTour teams, and a host of British UCI Continental teams and riders will join them on the start line when the race rolls out in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
We caught up with some of the Brits hoping to make a big impact in front of their home crowds on the 225km route.
One man very familiar with the route is Northern Irishman Pete Hawkins (Team IG-Sigma Sport), who now lives in London and trains on the route set to be used.
Of the route, he said: “It’s pretty tough terrain. Obviously it’s fairly flat in the middle of London but once you get into Surrey it’s hilly.
“I think it will be harder than the Olympic route because it’s not just Box Hill, there’s Leith as well. The roads are narrow and steep – it’s quite challenging and it’s also quite a long one.
“I think if you’re in the right place it does make it easier – also from a motivational point of view, when you know you’re going to be racing on the roads you train on you do feel you’ve got an advantage.”
The 28-year-old, originally from Belfast, finished fourth overall in last season’s Premier Calendar but after an encouraging start this year he crashed out of the An Post Ras while wearing the yellow jersey.
He added: “My recovery has been going well. It was fairly quick in the end – I only ended up having about two weeks off the bike.
“However, my form has dropped a bit more than I expected, I’ve been struggling a bit but hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be back to where I was. It’s just been a case of trying to get my condition back, hopefully I will be back there soon.”
Another rider who knows all about the tricky climb up Leith Hill is UK Youth Team’s Yanto Barker, who lives within metres of the route, and the Welsh-born rider offered a frank assessment of what awaits.
“I’ve been doing several laps of Leith Hill in training and it’s bloody hard work,” he said. “It’s a proper climb, with some sections at about 20 per cent. It could split the race into pieces.
“It depends how the bigger teams want to ride it. That will influence what sort of finish we get. It’s hard but if they ride it steadily on the climb I think we’ll be looking at a group of about 60 at the end, but if it’s a more attacking race it will be much less.”
Nevertheless, Barker insists his team are targeting glory after a hugely successful Tour series, which saw him win two rounds and the team storm to overall victory.
“We are far beyond getting experience, so a result is what we are looking for,” he stated. “It would be lovely to win of course, but a lot needs to go right for that to happen.
“I would not be hugely surprised if one of the boys manages to pull off a big one though. We’ve proved we can do it on the Tour Series so we want to do it amongst an elevated opposition.
“We’ve done a few longer races now, and it is hard. It’s a lot harder to control for a start but when it comes to the RideLondon-Surrey Classic, we’re not in the same position of having to control the race so in a lot of ways it makes it easier.
“The pressure’s off but that’s not to say we’re not motivated – it’s a real pleasure to be involved as you don’t get to ride many races with such a high-class field and riding through the streets of London too.”
One Brit to keep an especially close eye on is Mike Cuming, who at just 22 stormed to overall victory at the eight-stage Tour de Korea.
The Rapha-Condor JLT rider remains modest about his phenomenal achievement but is raring to go in London as he gears up for the Tour of Britain.
“This season’s been alright really – I can’t knock it,” he joked. “I went to Korea hoping to be up there and to help Rich [Handley] who’d done already done alright there but I never really thought I had a chance to win it.
“It’s definitely seen me reassessing my targets this year – I’d love to maybe do something in the Tour of Britain now, maybe get up there and get a stage win.
“It’s pretty important as preparation. It will be nice to ride alongside some of the big names who have entered, like Peter Sagan. It’s a quite long one too, so it will be good to get a race in over that distance before the Tour of Britain.”
He added: “I’ve just seen that it will be shown live on BBC too – everyone will be fighting to get in that early break now to get their names out there!”
Meanwhile, Team Raleigh know exactly what it takes to win in the capital after Tom Scully rode to glory at the IG London Nocturne earlier this year.
Former Garmin-Sharp stagiaire Scully won two stages and the overall sprint title at this year’s Tour Series and should the RideLondon-Classic finish in a bunch sprint he will certainly be one to watch.