By Mike Rowbottom

Box Hill_during_test_event_2011January 25 - British Cycling has welcomed today's news that the spectator capacity on Box Hill, which will be one of the key vantage points for the Olympic road race, for which Britain's Mark Cavendish is the favourite to win the gold medal, has been raised from 3,500 to around 15,000.

The initial capacity proposed for the Surrey landmark by London 2012 provoked strong criticism from the public and cycling authorities at both national and international levels.

But the new arrangements for the ancient landmark on which Jane Austen set one of her most accomplished comic scenes in the novel Pride and Prejudice have proved highly satisfactory.

British Cycling's President Brian Cookson said: "Following the test event, both myself and UCI President Pat McQuaid made our views about the unsatisfactory arrangements on Box Hill clear to LOCOG.

"Both before and since that time, there has been considerable input from the technical representatives of both bodies into the planning process, and I am pleased that this, together with the public and media pressure, has now resulted in a much more satisfactory situation for cycling fans than had originally been the case."

Extensive work will get underway on January 30 to make the Zig-Zag Road incline and Donkey Green area of Box Hill more accessible to spectators while protecting wildlife in the area, which is owned by the National Trust.

In March work will take place to lay a BT fibre optic cable to the top of Box Hill which will enable efficient communication, recording of results, broadcasting and timing during the Olympics.

It will also provide high speed broadband capabilities to the area in future.

In April the National Trust will re-surface the Zig Zag road.

The final capacity will be confirmed when the work is completed and a health and safety report is carried out.

London 2012 Director of Sport, Debbie Jevans, said: "We are delighted to welcome people to watch the Olympic Road Race from the Zig-Zag Road and Donkey Green at Box Hill.

"We will give people the chance to see a generous amount of Road Race competition at one of the best stretches of road which we are able to do following the test event and our learnings there.

"Spectators will have a unique viewing position on the route, there is another 120km of route which is free to spectators, including some great points through London and The Royal Parks."

Spectators on Box Hill will have an outstanding view of the event, with the men's race looping Box Hill nine times and the women's twice.

Box Hill_2_during_test_event
The National Trust will be removing scrub along the Zig Zag road which will allow for the increased capacity and also encourage chalk grassland to grow following the Games, making more room for endangered species such as man orchids and small blue butterflies to flourish.

The rest of the route –which travels through six London boroughs, four Royal Parks and Surrey countryside, before heading back into central London for the finish on the Mall- offers spectators approximately 120km of road to watch the race for free.

Spectators can also view the race for free from other roads on the Box Hill Loop, excluding the Zig-Zag Road incline and Donkey Green.

Andy Wright, the National Trust Countryside Manager for Box Hill said: "It's great news that so many people will be able to enjoy the races in this wonderful natural setting.

"The surveys conducted by LOCOG are the most thorough ever carried out on this site and will really help us manage the habitat for the long term.

"The scrub alongside the road has very few species living in it so when we remove it, it doesn't matter if people walk in those areas.

"Gradually, over the years, that land will turn into chalk grassland which is a much richer habitat – supporting around 60 to 100 species of plants, animals and insects per square metre."

Jim Smyllie, Natural England's Executive Director for Delivery, said: "Natural England has a responsibility to ensure that the wildlife on this very special site is effectively protected, and it is great news that LOCOG's survey shows that careful scrub clearance will restore degraded habitat and at the same time enable more spectators to view the thrilling road cycling events of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games."

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