By Nick Butler

cyclistsJuly 31 - London Mayor Boris Johnson predicts that London will become a "paradise for cycling" this weekend thanks to the Prudential RideLondon festival which will involve 70,000 cyclists taking to the roads of London and Surrey.

Johnson will be one of around 20,000 recreational riders participating in the "100-mile marathon challenge" on Sunday (August 4) when he competes as part of a 37-strong 'Team Boris' aiming to raise £25,000 ($38,000/€29,000) for his three charities, the Mayor's Fund for London, the Mayor's Fund for Young Musicians and the Legacy List.

"We hope to see huge numbers of people doing the 100-mile cycling marathon, the largest ever inaugural mass-participation event in the world," he said.

"Prudential RideLondon will be another great sporting event for our city, our capital and our country.

"It shows that London is in the lead in delivering cycling events."

boris cyclingMayor of London Boris Johnson is a keen cyclist

The Mayor revealed that he has already ridden part of the beautiful but challenging 100-mile route during his training, including the two testing Surrey climbs of Leith Hill and Box Hill, which was part of the road race during last year's Olympics.

"I am fairly confident I can get round, but how fast I can do it is another matter," said Johnson.

"I have been up Leith Hill forwards and backwards, up and down, and Box Hill no problem.

"But I want to manage expectations downwards a bit - I'm sure I can do it, but I'm not sure how quickly as I'm a pretty cautious London cyclist, not a speed merchant.

"The chiselled whippet is yet to emerge."

The festival also includes the Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle on Saturday (August 3), where 50,000 cyclists of all ages and abilities are expected to fill eight miles of central London's streets.

There are also two events for professional riders - the Prudential RideLondon Grand Prix criterium races around St James's Park on Saturday evening and the Prudential RideLondon Classic, a 140-mile men's road race, on Sunday afternoon.

womens team pursuitLondon 2012 olympic champions Joanna Rowsell, Laura Trott and Dani King are all set to compete in the women's criterium race

Johnson sees the festival as an integral part of his cycling vision for the capital and of London's Olympic legacy project.

"We are determined to make cycling a normal part of life in London," he said.

"We're investing £930 million ($1.4 billion/€1 billion) in cycle lanes and road junctions.

"We need to create a new kind of confidence in cyclists so we need to educate, not just cyclists, but motorists too.

"We don't have enough road space in London to give over just to cyclists, so unless we start with a programme of interventions then we can't flip the switch in people's minds."

The festival should also bring benefits to Surrey as well.

"We are encouraging more and more cycling and we have a Cycle SMART strategy to get people out on their bikes," said Surrey County Council's Cabinet member for community services, Helyn Clack.

"We had the Olympic cycling races in Surrey, which were momentous, and an aim of the Games was to change lives so when Boris said to us 'let's do it again', we said, 'let's go for it."