By John Geoghegan and Chris Greenwood
The organisers had hoped it would be a seamless test run for the 2012 Olympics.
But the chaos that surrounded yesterday’s London-Surrey Cycle Classic may have given an unfortunate taste of what to expect next summer.
Much of London was left in gridlock by the bicycle race, and some furious drivers were even forced to abandon their cars.
Taking up the tarmac: Competitors are spread across the entire width of the road along the London-Surrey route
Top cyclists rode from The Mall in central London to Box Hill in Surrey and back again - the exact same 87-mile route as the road race in the 2012 Olympics.
About 1,400 roads in London and Surrey were shut for most of the day, resulting in huge traffic build-ups.
Roads in central London were blocked off from 4am yesterday while those further out had closed at 8pm on Saturday. Many closures remained in place until 4pm yesterday.
Transport for London bosses said they warned residents and businesses that roads in the area would be ‘severely affected’.
Wide berth: Even The Mall in London had to be cordoned off to allow the cyclists through
But many motorists, who found themselves stuck in traffic for hours, said they were unaware of the degree of the disruption.
Drivers were also angry that roads were still shut long after cyclists had passed through.
Alan Ashworth, 56, from Bromley, left his car after hitting gridlock in Kings Road in Chelsea about 2.15pm and had to walk two miles to work in Kensington.
He said: ‘It was absolute gridlock.
‘I was trying to cross Fulham Road and was turned back.
‘I asked the race steward when the race finished and he said it was an hour ago.
‘He said he was from out of town and didn’t really know what was going on.
‘I was told to go to Shepherd’s Bush if I wanted to get to Kensington.
‘But there were no cyclists flying by, just hundreds of these stewards.
‘It was absolute nonsense.’
Pedal power: Competitors rode from The Mall in central London to Box Hill in Surrey and back again - the exact same 87-mile route as the road race in the 2012 Olympics
Takeover: About 1,400 roads in London and Surrey were shut for most of the day, resulting in huge traffic build-ups
Mark Cavendish sprints fro the line in front of Buckhingham Palace and (right) celebrates his victory
Areas affected included Westminster, Chelsea, Fulham , Richmond, Hampton Court and parts of Surrey.
South west London, including Kingston and Putney, were among the worst-hit areas.
Motorists complained that journeys of just a few miles took up to two hours and in some cases were impossible to complete.
There were reports of tempers fraying around Earls Court when a wedding convoy realised their route was completely blocked by temporary road blocks.
One unnamed race steward in Putney High Street admitted the road closures had been ‘chaotic’ with staff left in the dark over when diversions would be lifted.
Not exactly a walk in the park: Normally peaceful Richmond Park was on the cyclists' route
He said: ‘This is supposed to be a test event and it shows there is a lot more work to be done.
‘I am from Lincoln and we have cycle events all the time that pass without any bother.
‘It’s been a long day with a lot of angry motorists.’
The situation was made worse by gas roadworks at the junction of the A3 and the south circular, already one of London’s worst bottlenecks.
Drivers also vented their frustrations on Twitter and Facebook.
Sharon Burke-Mukungu, from London. tweeted: “Many roads closed in London today for a cycling event.
‘Please have such events in countryside in future.
‘Traffic been shocking all day.’
Support: Spectators in Headley, Surrey, were out in force. About 1,400 roads in London and Surrey were shut for most of the day, resulting in huge traffic build-ups
Despite the congestion, organisers hailed the event a success – but said lessons had been learned.
Debbie Jevans, London 2012 Director of Sport, said: ‘I want to thank London and Surrey residents for changing their normal Sunday to accommodate this race and to the tens of thousands who lined the route to support the athletes.’
Leon Daniels, Transport for London’s managing director for surface transport, added: ‘A huge amount of planning and delivery went into making this event happen.
‘The vast majority of people appeared to heed our advice to plan their travel and used tube and rail services, while others chose to enjoy viewing the race in their local area.’
Sealed with a kiss: Cavendish celebrates his win with girlfriend Peta Todd
The race passed through six London boroughs, four Royal Parks and out into Surrey before returning to central London and The Mall where Briton Mark Cavendish was first across the finishing line.
The event follows the route to be followed by the Olympic road cycling races, which take place over five days next summer, from Saturday, July 28, until Wednesday August 1.
Free to watch, it will include separate races for men and women plus time trials.