Key vantage point on road race course to get upgrade

LONDON (Reuters) - Thousands of spectators will be able to command one of the best vantage points at the London Olympics, organisers said on Wednesday when announcing an upgrade in capacity at a key part of the cycle road race course.

The 120km cycle road race route starts and finishes in The Mall and winds its way south west of the capital where riders will encounter the scenic 200 metre Box Hill on a zig-zagging route through the North Downs.

The 250km men's race will feature nine circuits of the Box Hill loop while the women will tackle the well-known beauty spot twice on their 140km course.

LOCOG say capacity on the Donkey Green area and Zig-Zag Road

incline at Box Hill, which will be ticketed, has been raised by 3,500 and that as many as 15,000 people could be accommodated for the event in which Britain's Mark Cavendish is one of the leading favourites for a gold medal.

"We are delighted to welcome people to watch the Olympic Road Race from the Zig-Zag Road and Donkey Green at Box Hill," London 2012 Director of Sport Debbie Jevans said in a statement.

"We will give people the chance to see a generous amount of Road Race competition at one of the best stretches of road which we are able to do following the test event and our learnings.

"Spectators will have a unique viewing position on the route, there is another 120km of route which is free to spectators, including some great points through London and The Royal Parks."

LOCOG said it will begin working with the National Trust at the end of the month to remove invasive scrub areas alongside the road to cater for the extra spectator viewing areas -- a move it says will benefit the biodiversity of the area.

"The scrub alongside the road has very few species living in it so when we remove it, it doesn't really matter," National Trust Countryside Manager for Box Hill Andy Wright said.

"Gradually, over the years, that land will return to chalk grassland which is a much richer habitat."

LOCOG said the road would also be re-surfaced in time for the Olympics.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Justin Palmer)

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