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RideLondon: thousands take part in mass cycling event after two-year absence | Cycling



The mass cycling event billed as the London Marathon on two wheels has returned after a Covid-enforced hiatus – with a new destination and, organisers say, a field of riders notably and deliberately more diverse than in previous years.

RideLondon, launched in 2013 as a weekend of cycling events covering both elite sport and mass participation, has proved hugely popular, but was cancelled in 2020 and last year due to the pandemic.

Sunday saw the return of both the “freecycle” family ride along an eight-mile traffic-free route in central London, and more taxing 30-, 60- and 100-mile rides out of the capital into the Essex countryside, with 22,600 riders starting the Essex rides.


Ride London always features a professional race, which this year was a women’s world tour event held over three days from Friday.

From 2013 to 2019, RideLondon headed into Surrey, but the county council decided to withdraw cooperation over the impact of road closures, despite a referendum of residents finding support for it to continue.

The change of destination to Essex allowed the route to be revamped to include wider roads and fewer twisty descents to avoid incidents such as in 2016 when thousands of riders were diverted after one participant was seriously injured in a crash.

Sunday’s 100-mile event saw one significant delay, when an air ambulance was called for a rider who had seemingly suffered a heart attack, but after he was taken to hospital the field was able to continue without any diversions. The rider is understood to be stable in hospital.


The event formerly started at the Olympic Park in east London, but now begins at Embankment in the centre of the city. With the usual finishing point of the Mall inaccessible due to platinum jubilee preparations, it ended at Tower Bridge.

Hugh Brasher, head of the London Marathon organisation, which has run RideLondon since it began, said the change of county allowed a new group of people to see the event go past – and, hopefully, be inspired.

“Going into Essex, we can have an impact there – it makes sense to change it,” he said. “Surrey was incredible, but you can make a difference elsewhere. We’ve got global warming. We have a health and obesity crisis. One in four 11-year-olds are now obese. With Freecycle, and the 30, 60 and 100 events, there really is something for everyone.”

This year, 23% of starters in the 199-mile event were women, a 40% rise on the previous edition, while in the 30-mile version, 46% were women. The organisers, Brasher said, had been doing “a huge amount of work” on both this, and with disability cycling groups and those representing black, Asian and minority ethnic riders.


“Cycling needs to become more accessible and it’s something where we’ve worked incredibly hard since 2013,” said Brasher, who rode the 60-mile event to see how well it worked. “The London marathon is 40 years old. With RideLondon, this is the eighth edition. Meaningful change doesn’t happen quickly.

“It’s so important to make cycling accessible for everybody. With the Freecycle at the same time, this is one day in London for everyone.”

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