It almost felt like a wake back in the bar of the Burford Bridge hotel after today’s Olympic road race.

In comfy chairs around the lounge and sat on the lawn out back, disappointed spectators dissected the day’s tactics.

To add insult to injury, instead of Cavendish, it was cycling’s own Bond villain who’d prevailed on The Mall. Was there a payoff? Will he fail a test? Vino’s never shown the slightest hint of repentance, they noted.

But while the end result perhaps left a funny taste in the mouth, it had by and large been a most enjoyable day out on the roadside.

It didn’t rain, the sun even shone, people descended on the race in their droves.

Up on Box Hill behind the hotel, it felt like a corner of rural France on a hot transition day of the Tour

Spectators lined the recently laid, tarmac three or four deep as kids and adults alike scrawled names in chalk on the surface.

To either side of the road, scrubby banks reared up through the trees. Amongst these, punters had spread rugs and waited for the race, eating picnics.

When it came through, they cheered on both front runners and back markers alike.

The crowds out there were “magic” David Millar later told the BBC.

Union flags were draped everywhere and we lost count of the number of fans sporting stick-on Brad Wiggins sideburns. Several spectators found lofty perches for their own unique perspective on the action.

In the intervals between the race’s nine ascents of the climb, kids slipped off into the undergrowth to play.

As idyllic as all this may sound, there was also a slightly weird dynamic to the crowd on Box Hill.

With LOCOG limiting access only to those who got their hands on tickets, many hardcore fans were denied a spot where they would have liked to have been.

While there was still many a true follower watching on the course’s main focal point, more casual fans perhaps diluted the atmosphere.

By laps four or five, some of these had already given up on watching the race.

Having seen what they’d come to see (the Olympics, some of that cycling, that Wiggins fella) they’d stay sat on their rug, reading a book or napping.

By the end of the fifth lap, some of them were already leaving.

“To be honest with you mate,” one punter told us at the exit, “I’m bored s**tless.”

  • June Austin

    Nobody was charged to stand at the side of a public road. The ZigZag is not a public road, but managed by the National Trust as part of their estate. Anyone could and did view for free from within Box Hill Village, including many of whom (like me) live there. It was a terrific day for all concerned and the views there were just as good if not better than within the ticketed zone, something I can vouch for, since I was lucky enough to be given a free ticket for today. It was a huge success for the village as a whole, but I am glad it is all over all the same !

  • Geraint

    It’s a bit of a shame you picked such a negative quote from what I think was a minority. There were tens (hundreds?) of thousands of people lining the route – some hardcore fans, some just out for the day, mostly enthusiastic and happy to be out on a nice day supporting the sport and their teams.

    I didn’t have a ticket to the Box Hill section, and frankly I thought it was an outrage to charge people to stand at the side of a public road. Blatant profiteering and utterly ridiculous. I went and watched along the A24 and Old London Road, great atmosphere and saw enough of the race to enjoy it.

    The marshals and police were all friendly and helpful, and I had a great day out. Having watched most of it on the telly, it seems like there wasn’t very much info on time gaps available at all. The main downside for me was the public transport – very poor when really it was the only way for most people to get there.

  • Tom


    I never received my tickets either. Eventually I got through to customer services picked the tickets up from Stratford. Try sending them an email on the customer services webpage and ring late evening, for the next event.

    Odd atmosphere at Box Hill. No official commentary on the ‘big screen’ and no sound effects. Hard to comprehend what was going on in the race. Other than that it was well organised with great volunteers.

  • “Doc” John Beaven

    Still awaiting my tickets for today’s mens Olympic Road Race at Donkey Green/Butterfly Bend. No tickets received for Time Trial Start at Hampton Court Palace either. They sent my original tickets to someone else as far as I can ascertain as I received and returned tickets for a guy in Northallerton. The customer service has been diabolical. Having cocked up in the first place they failed to promptly correct their error and keep me informed. Helpline was blocked most days and on the three occasions I did get through what I was told would happen didn’t. Hope others didn’t experience the same treatment. Took the edge off an otherwise great day.

  • RhodriM

    That’s a shame; most of the people on Staple Lane seemed well up for it. Seemed to be a good amount of club riders there.

  • Heather Morrison

    Why is there the need to go on about this..he was caught, served his ban & is back….murderers get an easier time of it in the press than an athlete who takes drugs. If the sanction is 2 years it is 2 years. We will never know the absolute truth till they stand up and say it was me (please Lance).. and the nature of the beast is that if they dont confess we suspect them – it’s human nature. So we have to learn to move on, and constantly harping back to it is unhealthy for you who cant move on..