Arnaud Démare (FDJ) has won the inaugural RideLondon-Surrey Classic.
The Frenchman won a bunch sprint on The Mall to pip Sacha Modolo (Bardiani Valvole CSF Inox) and Yannick Martinez (La Pomme Marseille) at the end of a 220km race held in perfect conditions.
An emotional Démare said the loss of his trainer a month ago had made the victory more special, and vowed to return to London next year to defend his new title.
“I was at the centre of the group and I told my two team-mates to open the field – I had the legs, I just needed one opportunity,” he said.
“In the final stages, I thought a lot about my trainer who had been with me since I as a junior and that carried me to the line. ”
In scenes reminiscent of last year’s Olympic road races, tens of thousands of people lined the route, with seemingly the entire population of many small Surrey villages waiting at the roadside, as well as the expected giant support in central London.
The race came back together in the closing kilometres in an encounter characterised by two courageous attacks, with Britain’s Mike Cuming (Rapha Condor JLT), winner of the Tour de Korea, and Jonny McEvoy (NetApp-Endura) prominent in the first – a breakaway that lasted almost the entire day.
Simon Yates, riding for the Great Britain development squad, joined the break late in the day, after Cuming had been dropped, and almost immediately went on the attack, testing the legs of his more experienced rivals.
With the breakaway caught just 20km from home, a second attack launched, with Démare’s FDJ team-mate, Yohann Offredo, and Zico Waeytens (Topsport-Vlaanderen), riding clear.
Depsite Offredo’s best efforts, their attack foundered on Waeytens’ failure to contribute to the workload, and as they crossed Putney Bridge, the neutral service car was ordered to overtake the pair before the imminent arrival of the Sky-driven peloton.
The thousands who had waited on The Mall, many to see friends and relatives finish the RideLondon-Surrey100 sportive earlier in the a day, were rewarded with a nail-biting finish.
FDJ, recovered from the disappointment of Offredo’s capture, took up the sprint on the famed red surface and piloted Démare to victory.
The 21-year-old, overall winner this year of the Four Days of Dunkirk, and the fourth stage of the Tour de Suisse, claimed a memorable win on another memorable day for cycle sport in Britain.
Race director, Mick Bennett, said the team who had worked the hardest had claimed a deserved victory.
He praised the spectators who had turned out in their thousands, and said the value of the event should be measured by its ability to inspire the next generation of cyclists.
RideLondon-Surrey Classic – result
1) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ – 5.07.44
2) Sacha Modolo (ITA) – Bardiani Valvole CSF Inox – ST
3) Yannick Martinez (FRA) – La Pomme Marseille
4) Fabio Sabatini (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cycling
5) Danny Van Poppel (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM
6) Raymond Kreder (NED) – Garmin-Sharp
7) Christian Delle Stelle (ITA) – Bardiani Valvole CSF Inox
8) Zakkari Dempster (AUS) – NetApp-Endura
9) Chris Sutton (AUS) – Team Sky
10) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky +1″