Olympic cycle race will finish at Buckingham Palace

Cyclists are to sprint down The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace in the climax to the London 2012 cycle road race, it was announced today.

Hopes will be high for homegrown success in the opening weekend of the 2012 Olympics with sprint king Mark Cavendish plus Olympic champion Nicole Cooke and Beijing women's time-trial silver medalist Emma Pooley likely to be among the pack.



The men's Olympic race, featuring 145 of the world's top riders, is on the first full day of sport while the 67-strong women's race starts the following day.



The race will begin and finish in The Mall in central London cutting through Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham to cross the River Thames at Putney Bridge.



Richmond is set to be the heart of the race. Riders will speed through Richmond Park, back across the Thames at Richmond Bridge before passing through Bushy Park, Hampton Court Palace and into Surrey.



From Richmond the athletes head off on a large loop through Surrey taking in Walton on Thames, Weybridge, West Byfleet, West Horsley and Dorking.



This is where a "challenging" 15.5km circuit around Box Hill, including the National Trust's Zig Zag Hill, kicks in, according to London 2012.



This loop is repeated several times to help make up the approximately 240km distance for men's race and the 130km course for the women's competition.



The pack then heads back to London through Leatherhead, Esher, Hampton Court, Kingston and Richmond Park before using the same route back to The Mall.



Cavendish, who won his 15th Tour de France stage last year, is already looking forward to his Olympic challenge.



"Competing in a home Olympic Games is a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said.



"To compete in the road race on the opening day of the London 2012 Games in front of home fans is going to be amazing.



"I look forward to checking out the course in detail and to experiencing the well known cycling terrain in Surrey through to the finish on The Mall."



The course, complete with its twisting and turning roads and short climbs, has been set up as a tactical and challenging race for the teams to master so their superstar riders to shine through.



Organisers believe it could be a more tactical event than at other Games.



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