25,000 cyclists start 100 mile race at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

The Prudential RideLondon 2015 began at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (Picture: PA Images)

The Prudential RideLondon 2015 began at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (Picture: PA Images) - Credit: PA WIRE

It was an early start at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for 25,000 amateur cyclists yesterday.

The park played host to the starting line of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100, a 100 mile race taking in both city and country roads.

The 6am start didn’t bother Francesco Cipolletta, who was the first to cross the line in front of Buckingham Palace just days before his 37th birthday.

The Italian rode with the name of his dad, Ernesto, on the back of his shirt as he completed the ride in his memory.

“It has been so emotional for me from start to finish,” said Francesco. “I have been thinking about him all day, from arriving in London yesterday to the end of the ride.

“I was carrying him with me all through the beautiful course. In the last five kilometres I was thinking about him and it made me determined to be the first one.

“To finish in front of Buckingham Palace with 26,000 people in front of such a big crowd giving us such a fantastic welcome was just perfect.”

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If you were up early enough to cheer on the riders, you would have caught a glimpse of a few celebrities aiming to use pedal power to get them around the course.

For a race that started close to the Olympic Stadium, it was appropriate to have gold medallists in the field.

Hurdler Sally Gunnell, triple jumper Jonathan Edwards and rower Tim Foster were among the famous faces taking part.

The first celebrity to finish was television presenter Matt Barbet, who completed the challenging course in four hours and 24 minutes.

“I love London and it’s days like this that make you fall in love with it all over again,” he said.

“The fact that people are willing to get up at eight on a Sunday morning and clap us as we go past is amazing.”

The race was one of five events to take part over the weekend, with elite races for men, women and hand cyclists, plus a family cycle.