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Cyclists rule in mass London ride

Thousands of cyclists have taken to the streets of London after some of its most famous - and most busy - streets were closed to cars and lorries.

The second Prudential RideLondon event saw people of all ages ride around a ten-mile circuit that took in some of the capital's top landmarks, including Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London.

The "freecycle" was part of a weekend of events which features household names like Olympic and Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins and Olympic and Commonwealth gold medallist Laura Trott taking to the roads in serious races.

It started with a world record, as a group of 639 riders set a new benchmark for the largest bicycle bell ensemble.

Miss Trott, a Prudential ambassador, said: "I've been looking forward to this event for ages. The sun's out and there are so many people cycling - it's great to see.

"It's brilliant that we can close a major city and have it just for cycling. When I was growing up I never experienced anything like that, so it's great to see how far my sport has come that we can do this.

"Cycling is getting bigger and bigger. I love riding my bike and to see so many come out to do the same is amazing. If it encourages as many young children to cycle as possible then it's been a success. That's what it's all about."

Trott, 22, could not retain the women's Grand Prix title she won in the inaugural event last year. She could only manage fifth place in this evening's race, which was won on the Mall by her Italian Wiggle Honda teammate Giorgia Bronzini, with reigning world champion Marianne Vos second and Briton Elizabeth Armitstead third.

Bronzini said she was thrilled to have won the race, telling the BBC: "It was an amazing race, I'm really excited about it because the last time I was here was the Olympic Games and I was a little bit unlucky.

"I really wanted to win in this beautiful city."

Tomorrow will see Sir Bradley Wiggins and 2012 world champion Philippe Gilbert lead the field in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic, which starts at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, and takes riders on a 100-mile course out into Surrey before coming back into London and finishing on the Mall.

Wiggins, who missed out on a ride for Team Sky in this year's Tour de France, will ride for the team tomorrow.

He said: "I'm really looking forward to Sunday and to being back on the road with Team Sky. I always enjoy competing in front of home fans and have great memories of riding this route at the Olympics.

"The support we got then was unbelievable, and it was the same again at the Tour of Britain last year, so this promises to be a really special day."

Tomorrow's cyclists will have to have one eye on the weather, with the country bracing itself for high winds and more flash floods as Hurricane Bertha hits the country bringing lashing rain in its wake.

RideLondon later said an estimated 60,000 amateur cyclists had taken part in today's event on the closed roads of central London.

Event director Hugh Brasher said: "We've had a fabulous start to the weekend today. We began the day on a high by setting a new Guinness World Record for the world's biggest bike bell orchestra and since then the cycling fun hasn't stopped as tens of thousands of riders packed London's traffic-free streets to enjoy this unique event.

"The turn-out has been even better than last year and we were thrilled to end the day with the Prudential RideLondon Grand Prix - the biggest pro women's criterium ever staged in the UK."


From Belfast Telegraph