Mick Bennett, director of the RideLondon-Surrey Classic believes BMC's Philippe Gilbert will be the one to beat in Sunday's race
Director of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic Mick Bennett insists he can’t wait for this year’s edition to get underway on Sunday – predicting it will be the most open race yet.
Last year’s Classic was dominated by mother nature as the heavens opened and the riders were lashed with rain from start to finish.
But despite the dark clouds Great Britain’s Adam Blythe managed to shine, proving himself a master tactician when he jumped from the back of the leading group of five to win the sprint down The Mall and take the title for NFTO.
This time around, the 25 year old will bid to defend his title in the colours of Orica-GreenEDGE, but that is certainly easier said than done when you look at the start list.
And when you add home favourite Mark Cavendish into the mix, the Manx Missile missing last year’s race through injury, then it is easy to understand Bennett’s excitement.
“What I’m expecting from the race this year is simply better weather as let’s face it, last year we had the worst conditions we have ever had for a single day race in this country ever, so it can’t be any worse than that,” he said.
“But we have an amazing field this year with six world tour teams, many of them fresh out of the Tour de France so well in form.
“And if you throw in ten pro continental teams and then for the remainder of the field continental teams from the UK, then it is going to be one hell of a race.”
He added: “My personal opinion is that Philippe Gilbert is coming back and he had a fractured tibia in the early part of the season and he is certainly a one-day specialist. He has an amazing form, he won a stage in the Tour of Wallonie after only being back racing two weeks.
“But someone with a score to settle is our own Mark Cavendish. He couldn’t race last year as he was injured as he crashed in the first stage of the Tour de France and he was out for quite a while.
“But it is just wide open as you have Adam Blythe who is now riding for Orica-GreenEDGE, last year’s winner. He was a surprise winner of last year riding for NFTO and he has a point to prove.
“He has done very little the early part of this year, he has good form but hasn’t won a major race. He knows this race well having won it and he could well perform too.”
And it isn’t just the riders who will pose problems but also the 200km course, which this year starts on Horse Guards Parade in St James’s Park and offers the world’s largest prize fund for a one-day race.
“It is an undulating course, it is not extreme but it is relentless,” Bennett added. “They leave Horse Guards Parade at 1.30 on Sunday and then racing starts proper all through Richmond Park.
“And once we hit the Surrey Hills we have three climbs on the Dorking circuit and that is before we through in Box Hill with about 40km to go, and then there is the final sprint coming up the high street at Wimbledon.
“The Prudential Ride London men’s classic is the most important single day race in this country.
“It has total road closures on it, it has 150 riders in the field, we take in all the lovely boroughs of central London plus the Surrey hills on elements of the Olympic circuit and it has all the ingredients to be a real classic.”
Prudential RideLondon takes place on 1-2 August 2015. Prudential is proud to support people’s ambitions. Visit www.pru.co.uk
Check out Mark Cavendish’s Specialized S-Works Venge