Box Hill Olympic Cycle Route

The mens and womens Olympic road races will be both be using Box hill as part of the Olympic road circuit. The men will climb box hill (Ziz Zag road) nine times, the women two times. It is a good hill climb 2.5Km, averaging 5%. It only climbs 125 metres, but after nine ascents it’s very testing.

Box hill is also popular with a wide range of cyclists (I saw one guy powering his way up on a Brompton foldup). It’s constant gradient isn’t too severe and you can take it at your own pace. There is a nice cafe and great views at the top.

Box HIll Cycling

First hairpin of Box hill

Box Hill Climb

  • 2.5 Km
  • Average gradient 5%

IMG_7859
Lower slopes of box hill

The road climbs from: 54metres to 180 metres by the cafe at the top. After flattening out at the top, there are great views to the right. Around the corner, there is a secondary incline of another 10-15 metres.

Box HIll Cycling

View from half way up Box Hill

From the Olympic road race course, there is a sharp turn into the narrow road at the bottom of Box hill. In the road race, there will be a lot of competition to get a good position going into the climb, as the road is relatively narrow.

The gradient is fairly constant at around 5-6%. I noticed a peak of around 7% on the lower slopes. After the first 180 hairpin, it slightly levels off but never less than 4%.

Box HIll Cycling

Box HIll Cycling

The first hairpin is very sharp, there is a 180 degree switchback. After this the road comes out of the woods, and is quite exposed, especially if a strong headwind. Near the top, there is a final hairpin, though not quite as steep.

Box Hill Cycling

The top of Box Hill

Box Hill Challenge

As well as coming to take some photos and feel part of the Olympics, I also wanted to see how fast I could climb Box Hill. The fastest recorded time was 4.54 for the 2.5Km version -s et during last years Surrey Cycle Classic (a warm up for the Olympics) average speed of 30.7Kph.

You can’t take these comparisons too seriously. It’s very different doing hill intervals in training compared to participating in a proper 140Km road race. But, it still a bit of fun and interesting to see how quickly the peleton might climb the hill.

I went down on Tuesday 24th July – the last day before the roads were closed for Olympic preparations. The weather was almost perfect. 30 degrees, a light wind and sunny.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of traffic on the climb with vans, lorries, cars and motorbikes all driving up – either to enjoy views or to set up for the race, which was already beginning in earnest. Quite a few ascents got disrupted by traffic jams. It felt like the whole world were descending on box hill.

 

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First sharp hairpin

My first attempt at the 2.5Km segment was 4.48. The warm weather helped, I felt there was a headwind on the exposed section, though that might just have been psychological.

At the bottom, I set off quite fast, touching 23mph. I went into the first hairpin with a lot of speed and almost ran out of road. It’s really quite sharp and it is hard to maintain all your momentum. On the more exposed section, it was a little harder, though the gradient eased a little towards the top. After finishing the climb, I did a couple of circuits of the Olympic road race and then thought it would be good to do nine ascents of box hill – like the men’s road race. I didn’t do the circuit but¬† just went up and down.

Despite the cars, it actually felt quite special to be training on the Olympic road race circuit. Box hill is a beautiful venue. If it was closed to cars and vans, it would be heaven for cyclists. It was interesting to see the setup, it really is a big organisation.

olympic-rings box hill

olympic-rings box hill

I would love box hill to host the national hill climb championship one day, it would make a great course, though I doubt the National Trust would want to close the roads for an event slightly less prestigious than the Olympics!

I spent quite a bit of time on the Olympic course, some local villagers were very friendly and excited at the prospect of the Olympics. There obviously weren’t cycle fans though because one asked me if I’d done the Tour de France. (tip. Not everyone wearing lycra has entered the Tour de France)

olympics

On the route, I saw quite a few Olympic riders. A couple of New Zealanders, A Dutch rider, and a couple of US riders. I didn’t see any British / Team Sky riders. Knowing British Cycling’s attention to details, it’s hardly surprising they avoided box hill and the inevitably traffic jams. I’m sure they will be testing the course tomorrow when the roads are closed to the public.

It’s not often I travel to do training. But, this time it was really worth it. It’s not every year, the Olympics happens an hour from where you live. When I watch road race on TV, I’ll know what it’s like to do the climb. By the way, the ninth attempt was somewhat slower than the first!

Box Hill Cyclists and Motorists

Despite the obvious difficulties and jams, cyclists and motorists seemed to get on OK, there was no tempers drawn. Both were reasonably considerate. It’s a real test. It’s such a great place to cycle, it’s unsurprising so many cyclists are on the roads around box hill. Definitely worth the cycling.

Box Hill Olympic Cycle Route


Bike route 884987 – powered by Bikemap

The rest of the route could be described as rolling. A few ups and downs before a very fast section on a bit of dual carriageway. However, although it is dual carriageway, it’s not too bad as there is mostly a cycle path protected by white lines separating cycle path from road.

 

Brompton box hill

Proof You can Ride Boxhill on a Brompton

A great view , shame about the tub of lard in the middle.

 

top of box hill.

Nine climbs of Box Hill

  • 4.48
  • 5.05
  • 5.31
  • 5.36
  • 6.02
  • 5.53
  • 5.59
  • 6.26
  • 17.07

Related

 External links



15 Responses to Box Hill Olympic Cycle Route

  1. James June 26, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    Hi

    I notice you did this on a road bike. However you’re commented before that some hill climbs would be faster on a TT bike. Do you feel this idea would apply to box hill? What with is shallow steady gradient.

    • tejvan June 28, 2013 at 10:12 am #

      Good question. If gradient is 3% into a headwind a TT bike is definitely quicker. When gradient rises to 5% I’m not sure. I think a TT bike may be slightly quicker. Though the benefit will be marginal. With a tailwind, definitely I would choose a road bike

  2. Hueber November 11, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    Will there be a training DVD available of 2012 Olympic Road course?

  3. lulu September 21, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Does anyone know the name of the cafe at the top of Box Hill mentioned at the beginning of the article above?

  4. ken Downing August 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    tejvan,nice description of box hill i would love to be able to 1) get down there and 2) climb that distance. I have to contend with plenty of climbs here around leeds. chevin bank,pool bank and many more,however,i`m getting stronger not bad for 67 years of age and recovering from a heart attack. Love your letters. Ken.

  5. mel minsky July 29, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Does anyone know what the difference in average speed between women and men in competition? All things other then sex being equal.

    • tejvan July 30, 2012 at 7:21 am #

      women 140Km – 3.35 = average speed – 39.1 Kmh
      Men 250Km – 5.45 = average speed 43.5Kmh

  6. Dave Morris July 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Great insight, thanks for this. Have to put it on my “to do” list, probably along with a few thousand others inspired by the olympics.

  7. Tom Larsson July 27, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    I see Taylor Phinney did 5.05 in training http://app.strava.com/rides/14670535#

  8. A.H. July 26, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    You didn’t mention in the article that you got the strava KOM.. very modest!

    I’d like to see how fast the Pros race it though.. hopefully Taylor Phinney or someone will upload his race data to strava.

  9. Jonny R July 26, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    I was out on Box Hill on Tuesday. I had a great time but didn’t come close to matching your first time!

    I did meet Tejay Van Garderen at the bottom of the climb. He was incredibly nice and happy to chat. The Dutch and American mechanics were really cool too and didn’t mind me walking around checking out the bikes they were working on.

    My only disappointment is that they are not letting people along the whole climb. The posts with the speakers that you can see in a couple of shots to channel crowd noise in the empty parts are completely stupid.

    • tejvan July 26, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Nice. Tejay Van Garderen is a real prospect for the future.

  10. ianmac55 July 25, 2012 at 4:57 am #

    Like the rider you pictured, I too have climbed Box Hill on a Brompton! CTC Northampton organised a ride around parts of the Olympic course when it was announced. Most people went in cars. To be greener, I went by train and Brompton.

    It was a great day out. I loved Box Hill itself. I wore a “King of the Mountains” polka-dot top with, I hope, a sense of irony. At the top, the carbon-fibre brigade – and the top was crowded with them – all applauded me (and then attacked me for not wearing a h*lm*t).

    I’d not long returned from touring across France and I found that Box Hill was easier and shorter than many tourist routes in the Haute-Loire and the Ardeche. So I didn’t actually think that it was too great a challenge on the Brommie at all.

    Anyway, I’ve got a ticket for the Donkey Green spectator area of Box Hill on Saturday (well, for the over-60s it’s only a fiver) and so I’m looking forward to another great day out.

    P.S. If you search out a blog I very occasionally keep at http://ianmac55.wordpress.com/ and scroll down you’ll see a photo of me climbing Box Hill on the Brommie.

  11. Hurumph July 24, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    Whoop whoop as the young things say – you are top of the leaderboard on Strava for this section; the best of nearly 3000 riders!

  12. Hurumph July 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    I find cycling in 30 degree heat a little too difficult, though I bet the competitors would agree with you.

    Great pictures, even the lump of lard spoiling the view in the last picture.

    I’ve seen a few guides about where to watch it from on Saturday or Sunday that are free and one of the best places seems to be the A24 dual carriageway that you mention…. I’m very sorely tempted but I will record the whole thing just in case.

    For those that don’t know the area and are considering going, it is the section on the map, above, immediately underneath the ‘Leatherhead’ label that slopes from NE to SW (ish)

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