From Milk to The Mall, professional cycling in Great Britain has run a long and winding road.
With this weekend marking the fifth Prudential RideLondon event, we take a look back at professional road racing in the country, and how we came to have two UCI WorldTour races in one city, on the same weekend.
Now established as one of the toughest week-long stage races in the world, the Tour of Britain has its roots in the 1958 Milk Race.
Earlier iterations of road races in Britain, the Southern Grand Prix and the Victory Cycling Marathon – both of which were organised by the British league of Racing Cyclists – were contested entirely by amateurs.
Run on a shoestring, that changed in 1958 when the Milk Marketing Board got involved and begun sponsoring the Brighton-Glasgow race that had evolved from the Victory Cycling Marathon.
Known as the Milk Race, a true tour of Britain, from then on, the sponsorship lasted until 1993 when the Milk Marketing Board disbanded.
With winners including Malcolm Elliott and Shane Sutton, the race attracted the best of British as well as headline professional riders from around the world.
In 1987 a second, purely professional, race began in Britain with the advent of the Kellogg’s Tour, which would later be rebranded as the PruTour.
Held alongside the Milk Race until 1993, from then on only the Kellogg’s Tour remained with winners including Robert Millar, Max Sciandri and Stuart O’Grady.
Named the PruTour for its final two editions in 1998 and 1999, the Tour of Britain ceased to exist for five years – until its rebirth in 2004.
Coinciding with the start of Britain’s resurgent love affair with the bike, the Tour of Britain has grown and grown ever since, and now attracts the best riders in the world – with many often using it as perfect preparation for the World Championships.
Prudential’s involvement with the sport did not end with the PruTour in 1999, though, and when RideLondon was launched in 2013 as a legacy event from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – they got on board to give it a boost.
Now, in its fifth edition, the men’s and women’s professional races are some of the richest in the world and, for the first time, are both UCI WorldTour events.
The men’s race follows much the same route of the London 2012 road race, and its test event predecessor in 2011 that was won by Mark Cavendish.
The 200km route sees riders depart from The Mall, ride out into the hills of Surrey, and return via South West London, while the women’s Classique takes the form of 12 laps around a 5.5km central London circuit.
On Saturday there will be plenty of riders with Revolution experience on show, as the Barnes sisters – Hannah and Alice – as well as Dani King and Katie Archibald take to the start line.
Future Stars winners Grace Garner, Eleanor Dickinson and Emily Kay will also be in action, as will reigning champion Neah Evans.
And the men’s race will also be full of Revolution talent as the entire Team Sky roster have raced on the Revolution boards in recent years.
Jon Dibben, Owain Doull, Pete Kennaugh, Ian Stannard and Elia Viviani will all be on the startline alongside fellow Revolution Champions League riders Ryan Mullen, Ben Swift and Andy Fenn – riding for Cannondale-Drapac, UAE Team Emirates and Aqua Blue Sport respectively.
But will any of them take the win?
See the world’s best road teams take on the champions of the track in the Revolution Track Cycling Series. Tickets now on sale here.