The leader through Wimbledon is pipped at the post by Belgian Tom Boonen
Tom Boonen provided a perfect demonstration of one-day bike racing to clinch the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic on The Mall after racing through Wimbledon just minutes before.
The 35-year-old Belgian showed why he is one of the greatest one-day racers of his generation as he emerged from the obscurity of the pack and powered past Mark Renshaw on the rails to take the final sprint by two bike lengths.
The former world champion has won the famous Paris-Roubaix four times and the Tour of Flanders on three occasions, but this was his Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic debut, coming a full decade since his last victory in the British capital.
With just 10km to go it looked like the win would go to Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, after the Briton had ripped the race apart, closing down the day’s big break involving defending champion Jean-Pierre ‘Jempy’ Drucker and flying away from the field up Box Hill to open an apparently unassailable lead.
Thomas was in the lead as he raced through Wimbledon and was half a minute ahead as he crossed Putney Bridge for the final push towards St James’s Park. But just when it looked as if this would be the diligent domestique’s day in the sun, the pack closed and the man they call ‘G’ finally ran out of gas.
After a day of breaks, and a 25-minute pause for public safety at 47km due to congestion on the roads, it was a large group that turned the final corner into the finishing stretch with Buckingham Palace ahead up the road.
Renshaw made a mistake as he moved away from the barriers and Boonen, virtually anonymous for the rest of the 202km race, grabbed his chance, bursting across the line before opening his arms in wide celebration.
“I'm really happy to win,” he said. “It’s 10 years since I’ve won in London. It was a hard day as everyone was going bananas all day long. Everyone was fighting for every metre of the road.
“It was only with about 35 to 40km to go that we started to pull back the break and it finally came back together with 5km left. Then the team got well organised going into the final corner and I was really happy with my sprint.”
Much of the pre-race attention had been on Chris Froome, Britain’s three-times Tour de France winner, and his Sky colleague Ben Swift who has twice finished on the podium here.
But it was their colleague and compatriot Thomas who made a bold bid for glory in a move pre-planned by Sky to throw the sprinters off their game.
It so nearly worked. Never before has anyone managed to break clear on this course – not in the 2012 Olympic road race, nor in the first three editions of the Classic – but Thomas appeared to be in a class of his own today as Sky delivered a tactical masterclass that almost worked to perfection.
In the end his efforts were to no avail but they drew huge admiration from teammate Froome.
“It was amazing what G did today,” said Froome, who spent much of the race policing the peloton and trying to shut down attacks on Thomas’s lead.
“The plan was always to get him and Ian Stannard up the road and we were hoping it was going to stick.
“I was really hoping he could go all the way today and it looked as if he would do it. But in the end the teams got themselves into a good chase and unfortunately for us it all came to nothing.”
Earlier in the day more than 29,000 riders completed the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 46 and 100 sportives. Sadly the route claimed the life of cancer survivor Robin Chard, aged 48, from Bicester, and a crash or two put paid to some people’s races, with diversions in place meaning some later riders had no choice but to miss out mega hills Box Hill and Leith Hill.
The 100 mile route went from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford to Buckingham Palace via the Surrey hills and through Merton, Wandsworth and Kensington and Chelsea. There was a all-day street party in Wimbledon town centre as the event took place.
Merton Council’s own riders raised hundreds of pounds for a range of charities by taking to two wheels. The Mayor of Merton’s rider, senior lawyer Guy Bishop raised about £650 for the Mayor’s charities Age UK Merton and the Avanti Club (a mental health support group). He made it round in eight hours and 39 minutes.
Council web information manager Gavin Compton raised £655 for Tommy’s, and completed the course in seven hours 12 minutes. Sponsor him here.
Senior communications officer Bronwen Pickering rode the course in seven hours and one minute having been held up for more than an hour and a half with Gavin after a number of accidents blocked the road.
Chris Lee, director of environment and regeneration, completed RideLondon in seven hours and 19 minutes.
Consultation and community engagement manager Kris Witherington raised £270 for St Raphael’s Hospice in memory of his mother Vicki Witherington. He took on the 46 mile route in a little over three hours. Donate to St Raphael’s Hospice here.
August 5, 2016