General, Olympics

Q&A on Olympic road race

USA Olympic cycling road race hopefuls Kristin McGrath and Janel Holcomb talk about the course in Surrey.

The pair checked out the Olympic road race route last week (10 April) with Surrey County Council’s Alan Flaherty, who helped event organisers design the course.



Kristin McGrath

Kirstin McGrath. Click image to download.

What have the roads been like?

The roads have been good. They’ve been hard, the pavements are a little bit rough and the roads are narrow. I think it’s going to be a challenging course for sure. Obviously the climbs are tough. I think a lot of people are assuming that it’s flat besides the climbs but there’s actually a lot of up and down in between all the major climbs.

How is your training going?

Training is going well. Fitness is coming up.

What do you think of Surrey as a place to visit and cycle?

It’s beautiful here. The people have been really kind and helpful. Today we went by a big equestrian farm which was pretty cool.

Where to from here?

The next big race will be on Wednesday (18 April). We’re going to La Flèche Wallonne in the French region of Belgium. It’s a very storied spring classic race so really excited about that one.

McGrath was forced to take the 2010 season off after being hit by a truck in 2009 while training.

How can cyclists and motorists keep safe on the roads?

It’s important to ride like people can’t see you. And be very heads up because it doesn’t matter if you’re in the right or in the wrong a car is always going to win if you go up against a car. As a cyclist you have to ride defensively and be very heads up. A car has titanium and steel and we have bones so as a car driver you need to be a little bit nicer to cyclists and don’t try to take out your aggression on us because you could kill us easily. Both sides need to be very careful and respect each other.

Janel Holcomb also took some time out to answer a few questions:

Janel Holcomb. Click image to download.

What do you think of the route, is there a particular spot you think will be tough?

The course is challenging from start to finish. It’s challenging in that it’s never really flat. There’s a lot of undulation. Certainly Box Hill will be decisive, we go up it twice. I prefer climbs so I like the climb but I think the challenging part will be once we’ve gone over Box Hill and keeping things in control after the hill.

How have the roads been?

Surrey is an absolutely gorgeous area. It’s my first time to the UK and I couldn’t imagine a better way to see it.

The roads were beautiful. It was amazing to be able to ride through downtown London, go past Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and to think that in just a few short months we’ll be there racing for the Olympic road race.

How is your training going?

Training is going really well. I’ll be racing in Belgium for the next few weeks and it’s still only April so a long way to go until July and August.

What would you say to people considering taking up road cycling?

Road cycling is a fabulous sport for all ages and all people. A lot of people come into cycling later in life and they come in from either other sports or from no sport at all. It is really suitable for all levels and I would absolutely encourage people to get on a bike and see how they go.

A lot of elite cyclists have been professional athletes in other sports. Do you think there is a common trait that makes an athlete?

I think if you’ve been in sports, you have a certain discipline that you develop and it can be applied to whatever athletic endeavour you’re following. The thing that is so wonderful about cycling is that once you have got the skill of riding the bike down, which a lot of us do as kids, it’s really easy on muscles and joints. If people have had injuries, whether it’s from football, running or swimming, cycling is something people can pick up and continue to do for years and years.

Do you have any tips for how cyclists and motorists can stay safe on the roads?

I’ve ridden for years in places where people ask, how can you ride there, there are so many cars? It really is a matter of mutual respect. First of all, cyclists need to be respectful of cars and understand the rules of the road and then the same thing goes for drivers. Very often, if you’re in a car and you see a group of cyclists you might get nervous but if we treat cyclists as if they were another vehicle on the road that just moves a little bit slower and have a little patience, that’s the key to being able to occupy the roads safely.


For more information, journalists can contact Surrey County Council media officer Nicole Herlihy on 020 8541 8039 or email


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