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The end of the road for RideLondon-Surrey 100? Sportive under threat for 2021 – and beyond ... ?

Men's UCI race that shares same route has been dropped from proposed slimmed-down programme for next year...

The RideLondon-Surrey 100 sportive – the largest cyclosportive in the world in terms of participant numbers – already cancelled this year, may not return in 2021. But with event owner London Marathon Events (LME) revealing it has withdrawn its application to the UCI to hold the men’s WorldTour race which uses the same route, the signs are not good.

Meanwhile, Surrey County Council says its cabinet is still undecided whether to support the event in 2022 and beyond, with the decision delayed because of the coronavirus crisis, and is warning cyclists planning to take to the county’s roads on the weekend this year’s RideLondon was supposed to have been held to stay away.

Yesterday evening, LME announced that it hopes RideLondon will return next year, and is in discussions with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) with a view to staging the event on 30 May, an earlier slot than usual, including the RideLondon FreeCycle, and the women’s circuit race, the RideLondon Classique.

However, it added that “Plans to include a mass participation sportive in 2021 are still being reviewed and LME has withdrawn the application to host the RideLondon-Surrey Classic, the men’s UCI WorldTour race, in 2021.”

Event director Hugh Brasher said: “Our vision at London Marathon Events is Inspiring Activity and we have exciting plans to work with partners, such as the London Cycling Campaign and Wheels for Wellbeing, to develop FreeCycle in 2021 and support more people to get on a bike and get cycling.

“RideLondon has always championed gender parity and led the way in offering equal prize money and exposure for women’s cycling.

“We are working to develop that support further by putting women’s professional cycling centre stage. By moving to a date in late May, it also allows us the opportunity to rejoin the UCI Women’s WorldTour as there are no date clashes with other races.”

RideLondon was first held in 2013 to provide a legacy from the previous year’s Olympic Games.

This year’s event had been scheduled to be held on the weekend of 15-16 August, but LME announced in May that it had decided to cancel it since it was impossible to stage it safely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

> RideLondon cancelled - all entrants to receive full refund

Instead, organisers have launched a ‘virtual’ edition of the event, encouraging people to get out on their bikes and ride 100 miles – or 46 or 19 miles to reflect the shorter routes – or the FreeCycle, to raise money for the charity’s that face a cash shortfall due to the actual event being cancelled.

Called My Prudential RideLondon, the event, which has a dedicated website where participants can register, takes place on 15 and 16 August.

Yesterday, however, Surrey County Council urged “cyclists and particularly big groups of cyclists who may be considering recreating the event on Surrey roads on 16 August refrain from doing so.

“Volumes of cyclists on roads that aren’t closed to traffic or pedestrians will not have the required safety measures in place.

“This will undoubtedly lead to injuries and disruption and undue pressure on the Emergency Services in Surrey,” the council added.

Earlier this year, the council held a consultation on whether to continue to host the event from 2021-2025, with its current contract ending this year.

It added at the time that it would be willing to stage the event on its roads next year to allow for a smooth transition, something it reiterated yesterday as it revealed that there would be no decision on its continued involvement until October.

“Following the consultation with residents which took place earlier this year, a cabinet decision has yet to be made on the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey cycling event continuing to pass through Surrey beyond 2021,” the council said.

“This was due to be reviewed at April Cabinet but due to the coronavirus crisis, the RideLondon-Surrey Cabinet decision was postponed, as other more immediate decisions needed to be actioned. It is now scheduled to be considered at an October Cabinet meeting.

“With regard to the future of Surrey hosting future Prudential Ride London-Surrey events, we are still committed to hosting the event again in Surrey in 2021,” the council continued.

“We will need to review operationally how the impact of Coronavirus will affect the mechanics of hosting a mass participation event of this scale. These implications will become more evident as we all begin to understand the legacy of coronavirus and its impact on society.”

While safety is clearly the paramount consideration, there must also be a question mark over whether the council – or any potential successor in the counties surrounding the capital – can be seen to support an event which attracts vocal local opposition, with the current crisis putting a squeeze on funding.

Moreover, with the council receiving less than its originally allocated share of the first tranche of the government’s emergency active travel funding, it may decide that money is better spent there and encourage people to cycle for everyday journeys, rather than focusing on a sport-focused event, albeit one that attracts many cyclists participating in a sportive for the first time.

Speaking about the potential plans for the capital to host RideLondon next year, Heidi Alexander, deputy mayor for transport, said: “Our focus for the 2021 event will be to inspire as many people as possible – of all ages and demographics – to get out in the capital and enjoy cycling.

“The Mayor’s new Streetspace programme is already fast-tracking the transformation of streets across our city to enable many more people to walk and cycle. The format for 2021 needs to be appropriate for the new world that we are living in and inspire as many people as possible to switch to cycling.

“FreeCycle offers a unique opportunity for people of all abilities to cycle through our great city on traffic-free roads and the Classique will support and spotlight women’s professional cycling in the way it deserves,” she added.

Julie Harrington, Chief Executive of British Cycling, commented: “Enabling more people to choose cycling is vital if we want to ease pressure on public transport and help those for whom getting around by bike is not an option.

“Together with our colleagues at RideLondon and the Mayor of London’s office, we are delighted to support their work to encourage people to get on their bikes.”

More details of plans for RideLondon 2021 will be released in the coming months.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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PRSboy | 3 years ago

I've never understood the dislike by some cyclists of closed road sportives... the Cardiff Velothon is one of the more enjoyable mornings I've spent on a bike, wooshing along with no traffic, not having to worry about junctions etc.

I've always fancied doing the RL100 but could never get my head around the logistics.

AlsoSomniloquism replied to PRSboy | 3 years ago
1 like

Totally agree, I don't mind paying the extra money to participate if I don't need to worry about traffic, junctions and only need to pay attention to other cyclists.

I did the last Cardiff one in 2018 and it was great albeit sweltering. in 2019 I participated in Brum, TOC, RL 46 and the last Pedal Scotland classic distance. In 2020 I was set to do Etape Lochness, finally got through the RL 100 ballot and Velo Brum and Essex. Of all the ones I have mentioned in the above lists only TOC and  maybe Loch Ness will be around next year. It seems I might be a jonah of closed road events. 


Organon | 3 years ago

Oh dear, really, oh dear. This is such a shame that such a great event might well end. It is an amazing festival event. I know you might not care, but this was my event that I was going to do for years on end. I had only really just got the hang of organising the weekend, not rushing down on Saturday and back on Sunday, taking time and seeing the sights too. I guess I could do the Dulwich Dynamo instead or something else. Any suggestions, if anything ever comes back?

This is my record:

2012 Watching Uran Uran chasing Finkurov for the Olympic medal.

2013 Ballot, Major stiffness. Maxing it out down Putney High st and blitzing along the Embankment, first time riding 100m. Cried a little when getting cheered across the line, 6h2m.

2014 Ballot. Hurricane, route shortened.

2015 No ballot, went to Morocco instead.

2016 Ballot broken spoke on Leith Hill 5h31.

2017 No ballot, went to london anyway and did freecycle and museums, watched pro start from the police box in the middle of the road, Kensington. Really regreted not being able to ride.

2018 Paid for Golden Charity ticket slot, rain and puncture but still beat first time 5h59

2019 No ballot, gatecrashed course at 6:30am, towed across Westminster by RAF (99 PBs in a row.) Coasted up a hill at 50kph. 5h07m felt like I had run a marathon.

So you can see I have a bit of an obsession with the event. A closed road event in a city is NOTHING like riding the route on a normal day. It is impossible to ride at the same speed, through red lights, down road tunnels, carving around roundabouts. Box Hill will always be there, but the rest...

Seems like the Golden Age of closed road Sportives is over. I know there are a lot of people who say 'what's the point of paying to ride on roads I can ride on for free/pay taxes for.' But on the other hand, you can't ride through Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square and up the Mall at 40kph whilst being cheered by several thousand people. It's special, I'll miss it.   

2wheelsnot4 replied to Organon | 3 years ago

Gatecrashing an event is appallingly selfish behaviour. You're getting access to closed roads, aid stations, police and ambulance support, etc for free which other people have paid for I.e. You're effectively stealing. You're also increasing the risk of an accident by exceeding the number of riders that the organisers, police, council, etc have deemed safe. And there may be liability/insurance issues if you are involved in or cause a crash as an unregistered participant.

If you're obsessed with the event then have enough respect for the organisers to either not ride if you don't get a ballot place, or better still ride for one of the many charities who have places and raise some sponsorship money.

Organon replied to 2wheelsnot4 | 3 years ago
1 like

Ha I knew someone would be outraged as I wrote that, believe me I moralized over it. But I am glad I did it. I had already paid for a charity slot the year before and could not afford to do so again given the costs (and spending in the London Economy,) in 2019. Nor was I prepared to ask friends and family to subsidize my hobby. I have entered the ballot every year and it was becoming increasingly apparent that this was not a likely method of enter form the posts here. I won't have been the only privateer, but those nunbers are very small. I used to do hometaping too, sorry to have destroyed the music industry for ya.

Nick T | 3 years ago

How on Earth can Surrey council warn cyclists to stay away from riding on the county's roads? I think I'll go and ride the route just to spite their temerity now

Ric_Stern_RST replied to Nick T | 3 years ago

Thinking exactly the same thing. 

a4th replied to Nick T | 3 years ago

It's not ideal that they've said it, but just because you can legally do something (ie go cycling with a big group of mates on a route where lots of other people may well be doing the same) doesn't make it a sensible thing to do at a time when everything is already really stressed out. Plenty of other beautiful places in and around London to go cycling where you'll probably see a fraction of the people you'll see on Box Hill.

jollygoodvelo replied to Nick T | 3 years ago
1 like

Unbelievable, isn't it?  "There will invevitably be injuries", well, some people might fall off, it's true, but mostly this is just more of the cycling-is-dangerous bullsh#t that's trotted out as an excuse to stop people enjoying themselves.

Awavey | 3 years ago

Well the Ride London Classique was announced on the UCI 2021 womens world tour for May 30th...just a week before the Womens Tour starts on 7th June

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