Keith Bingham: An Olympic cycling road race round Windsor would be historic but is it practical?
The UCI’s call for more iconic London landmarks to be included on the course of the 2012 Olympic road race has set the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) a conundrum.The UCI would prefer the race started in Central London and take in Buckingham Palace and the House of Parliament before heading into the boring suburbs west to Windsor and Eton College, where the toffs are.
But they also want the course toughened up! Fat chance if they go out west!
The UCI want to rival Beijing’s presentation, where the races started in Tiananmen Square, passed the Temple of Heaven, the Yonghegong Palace, the Temple of Earth Park, then headed for a spectacular mountain circuit alongside the Great Wall of China.
Well, there is certainly historic significance in going to Windsor because that’s where the 1948 Olympic road race was held.
But to get there means passing unlovely Heathrow Airport and the Hounslow suburbs. The roads are pan flat. Great TV shots! That’s if you can put a TV helicopter up near the largest airport in Europe.
The Windsor Great Park course used for the 1948 Games road race included aptly named Breakheart Hill, which did just that after 17 laps and 190 kilometres. José Beyaert of France (pictured) was the brilliant winner after a superbly timed attack in the last kilometre. Britain’s best was Bob Maitland, sixth.
So maybe London 2012 should just relocate to Windsor? The Duke of Edinburgh followed the men’s race in a royal limo and presented the medals in 1948. Perhaps he’d like to do so again.
But no, the 2012 road race isn’t meant to linger at Windsor, but come back to the Capital via the Surrey Hills, the North Downs.
That’s another no-brainer, because the Downs are at least another 15km south. Besides, if they are to cause the pros any leg ache they’d have to spend the day going up and down them.
And then any gains made will probably be wiped out on the dead flat 40km run back to the capital where the only decent climb to sort them out is Highgate, on the original course.
The women’s race is 126km, the men, 245km. So, take away the 80km run - at least - out and back, that leaves 46km to do on the finishing circuit for the women and leaves the men with 165km to do.
Perhaps they will stick with what they’ve got, a London course taking in the steep Highgate West Hill – the highest point in the Capital 134 metres above sea level - as suggested to them by none other than Bradley Wiggins a few years ago, and given a dry run by the 2006 Tour of Britain. This course is based on a start and finish in Regent’s Park, then Primrose Hill, Kentish Town, Highgate West Hill and Hampstead.
Perhaps they could compromise with a start and finish on The Mall, with Buckingham Palace as the backdrop. This was good enough for the 2007 Tour de France prologue and the Tour of Britain which finished there in 2006.
Keith Bingham is the chief reporter at Cycling Weekly and can be read every day here