General, Olympics

Box Hill to decide Olympic road race says USA cycle chief

Denise Saliagopoulos and Ken Whelpdale on Box Hill

The 2012 Olympic cycle road race will be won or lost on the Box Hill climb according to the leader of the USA Olympic cycling team.

During a visit to Surrey to study the route, Ken Whelpdale also said that basing his team in Surrey to train will give the USA an advantage over its rivals, as they attempt to stop Britain’s Mark Cavendish adding an Olympic gold to his world title.

He made the comments while speaking with Surrey County Council’s Denise Saliagopoulos, who is overseeing Surrey’s involvement in the Games, telling her the race could be bigger than the Tour de France.

Mr Whelpdale said: “We have studied the GPS data and [the team] will know what they have to do to make it nine times around [Box Hill] and finish well in London and we are prepared. Of course the climb is always interesting because it’s dynamic. So the first part of the climb will be by far our favourite part and that’s where the race will be made.

“Surrey has been amazing for our training needs … and the roads have been fabulous. It’s good for our preparations.”

He added: “It’s going to be a big advantage coming into the Games.”

Speaking about last year’s test event, Mr Whelpdale said: “During the test event all the people on the course were unbelievable. It was just like the Tour de France maybe even bigger, there were so many people on the roads when it was five and six deep, you just don’t see that at road races all over the world so it was pretty special.”

When asked about his team’s medal hopes he said: “I always feel good about our medal chances. Of course we expect to bring home quite a few medals.”

Mrs Saliagopoulos, who is Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services and the 2012 Games, said: “Training in Surrey is sure to give cyclists the inside track. British, Canadian and Australian riders are also training here which will liven up the Sunday morning ride for our locals.”

“So far a total of 15 Olympic and Paralympic nations have signed up to train in Surrey. We are encouraging more teams to choose Surrey now and take advantage of a LOCOG* grant of up to £25,000 per nation to spend locally.”

Teams have until the end of February to apply for the LOCOG training grant.

– Ends –

Journalists can contact Surrey County Council media officer Nicole Herlihy for more information on 020 8541 8039 or email nicole.herlihy@surreycc.gov.uk

*LOCOG is the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

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