Prudential RideLondon round-up

All the action from Britain’s biggest cycling festival

Prudential RideLondon returned to the UK capital this weekend for a festival of cycling bigger and better than its inaugural year in 2013.

The festivities began at 9am on Saturday, when the peals of Big Ben were followed by the rings of 639 bike bells, the notes of which were conducted by Dominic Wheeler of the Guildhall School of Music in a specially composed piece entitled Westminster Chimes.

Egged on by double Olympic track champion Laura Trott and Olympic downhill skier Chemmy Alcott, the bike bell orchestra was recognised as the world’s largest by Guinness World Records, beating the record of 503 set in Leipzig, Germany, in 2003.

Laura Trott joins in the bike bell world record attempt in Guildhall Yard

Adjudicator Jack Brockbank, said: “It gives me great pleasure to officially recognise you all as official Guinness World Record breakers. RideLondon, on behalf of Guinness World Records, you are officially amazing.”

RideLondon event director Hugh Brasher added: “We are thrilled to have opened Prudential RideLondon 2014 by setting a new Guinness World Record for the world’s biggest bike bell ensemble.”

With the event open – and roads closed to traffic – the RideLondon FreeCycle got underway, with 60,000 people – and 120,000 wheelspedalling over a 10-mile route in the heart of London. Cyclists of all ages meandered along the route; stabilisers, fixies and Boris bikes were all present and correct as participants passed Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral.

The RideLondon FreeCycle is open to everyone regardless of age or size

With anticipation bubbling for the women’s professional RideLondon Grand Prix on Saturday evening, the Festival Zones buzzed with excitement. A host of cycling activities including frame-building, penny farthing polo and BMX shows were all on offer to a cycling-hungry public.

The afternoon was filled with thrills courtesy of Andrei Burton and his team of trials riders, who lit up the Festival Zone in Green Park, smashing seven stunt-bike world records.

Now that's a big bunny hop

Prudential RideLondon Grand Prix

Giorgia Bronzoni pipped Marianne Vos to the line

The RideLondon Grand Prix showcased the extraordinary talent of some of the world’s best female professionals. The stacked field, which included world and Olympic champion Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv), Brits Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) and 2013 winner Laura Trott (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling), and Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling) took on the 1.3-mile criterium course in St James’s Park.

Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Amy Roberts from Wales almost caused an upset, attacking from 1km out and forcing Vos to chase. The 19-year-old was caught in the finishing straight as Vos wound up her sprint. Bronzini stuck to the world champ’s wheel, sheltering from the headwind rushing down the Mall until 50m to go when she pulled out and stormed past Vos to the line.

Armitstead edged out British criterium champion Eileen Roe (Starley Primal) to take third, while Trott rounded out the top five.

Bronzini said: “It was a really amazing race, right in the centre of the city. For me it was quite exciting because the last time I was there was for the Olympic Games. That day was a little bit unlucky, so today I wanted to replace that day and try to win. That day there was Vos and Armitstead in first and second so I wanted to try to beat them.”

The professional women’s event was followed by girls and boys youth races, where potential stars of the future were given the chance to ride this iconic course. Sophie Capewell took gold in the girls’ race with Ethan Hayter winning for the boys.

Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100

The warm sun of Saturday made way for blustery winds and torrents of rain on Sunday as more than 20,000 competitors took on the RideLondon-Surrey sportive event, which was shortened to 86-miles in light of the treacherous conditions.

Even with atrocious weather, the event courted 25 per cent more finishers this year than last, with athletes of all abilities conquering the course, which ended on the Mall.

The awful weather didn't seem to put people off – over 20,000 of them

1987 Tour de France winner Stephen Roche was one of the many thousands on the start line. He said: “RideLondon has been absolutely great for cycling – every capital city should have one. Getting people on their bikes, getting bums on saddles, is what it’s all about.

“People here are in cycling mode now and realise what it can do for you healthwise but also socially. Cycling is also about meeting people, and events like this are showing the way.”

Director general of the UCI, Martin Gibbs, also took part in the rain-drenched event. He said: “It was fantastic to see so many people on bikes coming through the centre of London on closed roads. Everyone had a smile on their face despite the weather; it was great to see.

“We want more events like these. The spirit out on the road was great, everyone was looking out for each other and keeping it sensible and having a good time.

“I’ll be back next year hopefully for some better weather. If London can organise it then other cities should be able to follow.”

Sunday’s action also included the morning’s handcycle race, which pitted some of the world’s top Paralympians against one another over a 15-mile course from Kingston upon Thames to the Mall.

Last year’s criterium handcycle event was won by Walter Ablinger – and there was no change at the top this year with the Austrian once again claiming gold. Britain’s Brian Alldis was second and Switzerland’s Heinz Frei third. Karen Darke took gold for Britain in the women’s race, followed by Sandra Graf (Switzerland) and Jennifer Browning (Great Britain).

RideLondon-Surrey Classic

The weekend’s grand finale was the RideLondon-Surrey Classic, where a strong field of 147 included Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), 2012 world champion Phillipe Gilbert (BMC) and 2012 track world champion Ben Swift (Team Sky).

Classified as 1.HC by the UCI – the highest ranking outside the UCI WorldTour – the RideLondon-Surrey Classic has quickly become Britain’s most prestigious one-day race.

With weather improving, it was thought pre-race that the 200km event would end with a bunch sprint. Instead the final lactic lunge came from a five-man breakaway.

After just 13km of racing, a six-man group managed to eke a minute’s advantage over the peloton, but Wiggins and Ian Stannard of Team Sky drove forward in a relentless chase to keep pre-race favourite Swift in contention.

Wiggins fulfilled the team captain role, keeping Swift in contention

With 130km already in his legs, Gilbert broke away as he neared Box Hill, 10 others – including Swift – following his wheel. The group pushed their lead to over a minute with 50km to go, the winner looking likely to be among them.

Gilbert attacked again near Wimbledon, only five able to pull up to him this time. Yet another kick from the Belgian saw him escape with only France’s Julian Alaphilippe (Omega Pharma Quickstep) in tow. Swift, fellow Brit Adam Blythe (NFTO) and Slovenia’s Kristijan Koren (Cannondale) worked hard to close the gap.

Koren leading, the group of five flew towards the finish, all eyes on Swift. With 50m to go, Blythe launched a surprise attack, powering head of Swift, who came back but was unable to edge ahead of his countryman, who crossed the line in first. Swift was second, Alapjilippe third, Gilbert fourth and Koren fifth.

Blythe took the opposition by surprise and steamed to the line to take victory

Blythe said: “It’s hard to say how much this means to me. But you could see how emotional it was as my face said it all.

“OK, it’s not like I won the Worlds or anything, but this is very big race for a British rider to win, especially in this setting in front of the Queen’s house. I hope she was watching.

“In the last kilometre I knew I had plenty in the tank. I just wanted to make sure I got everything out and didn’t leave it too late to make my move.

“I knew that if I was close to Swifty I’d have a chance. I hugged close to the barriers and had a go. Now I feel like I can mix it with the big boys.”

With RideLondon being brought to a spectacular close, event director, Hugh Brasher, summed up the weekend’s activities. He said: “We are delighted to have built on the success of last year’s inaugural event by putting cycling and cyclists well and truly in the spotlight once again.

“Having won seven awards in year one, we had set the benchmark high. From the moment our orchestra, accompanied by more than 600 cyclists, broke a Guinness World Record to the finale this evening, with a British one-two in the best one-day Classic ever staged in the UK, this event has without doubt underlined its claim to be the greatest cycling festival in the world.”

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, declared the event the “London Marathon on wheels” and said: “This weekend Prudential RideLondon has cemented its status as the world’s premier mass-participation cycling event.

"From all the families and kids who’ve hopped on to the saddle, to the elite athletes and enthusiastic amateurs who’ve battled through driving rain, it’s been a fantastic advert for cycling and for our city.”

Next year’s event is already set for 1 and 2 August with the ballot for the 2015 RideLondon-Surrey opening next Monday 18 August.

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