With six months to go until the Olympic road races, there has been a major climb-down in the battle for Box Hill. After restricting access to just 3,400 spectators, the organisers are now set to allow 15,000 bike fans on to the slopes of the Surrey beauty spot, which will be climbed nine times in the men’s event on July 28 and twice by the women 24 hours later.
It’s great news in the ongoing saga, coming some 13 months after initial concerns were raised that hordes of spectators would wreck the hillsides. Largely due to reservations from Natural England over the environmental sensitivity of the area, a wristband system was used to restrict access to the 3.5-kilometre zig-zag road for the Olympic test event last August.
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There was an unprecedented outrage from fans and riders channelled through CW. We said it was a bad decision, but were repeatedly told by the powers that be to drop the issue, as there was absolutely nothing that could be done.
It was too late for the test event, but responding to enquiries from CW last October, LOCOG, the National Trust and Natural England did eventually agree that they would review spectator numbers.
By coincidence, this week has seen a second U-turn, with Box Hill to be completely resurfaced. Again, this magazine raised the issue, complaining that the terrible road surface simply wasn’t good enough for a world-class event.