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Tour of Britain preview

For British cycling fans, the eight-day Tour of Britain, which kicks off today, is the highest profile annual race it is possible to see live without reaching for your passport.

If you’ve been interested watching the Tour de France on TV, it’s well worth going to see a stage live, either on one of the bigger climbs or at the finish. Sure, the hills – though steeper and trickier than you might think – aren’t exactly Alpe d’Huez, and there is no Alberto Contador or Lance Armstrong or Mark Cavendish (who is otherwise engaged bunny-hopping his way to victory at the Vuelta a España), but there is nonetheless a strong and interesting line-up for what promises to be a hotly contested race.

Matt Goss (left, in white) winning stage two of the 2008 race. Goss is currently Mark Cavendish's chief lead-out man at the Vuelta a España

Last year’s winner, Sky‘s Edvald Boasson Hagen, will not be present to defend his overall win from last year. (He raced yesterday at the Grand Prix Québec, finishing second.) But Sky will be led by multiple Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins, who will be looking to make up for a disappointing Tour de France, flanked by British teammates Geraint Thomas, Steve Cummings and Russell Downing.

HTC-Columbia will be spearheaded by the German pair of Tony Martin (who is in good form having won last month’s Eneco Tour) and sprinter André Greipel. Irishman Dan Martin (Garmin-Transitions) will be targeting the overall win, or at least a high finish, having won the Tour of Poland in August. And classics specialist and sprinter Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo) – a stage winner at the Tour de France, Vuelta a España and several other prestigious stage races – will also be up among the leaders, after an injury-hit season.

The race itinerary is as follows:

Stage 1 (Saturday 11th): Rochdale > Blackpool (132.6 km)

Stage 2 (Sunday 12th): Stoke-on-Trent > Stoke-on-Trent (160.5 km)

Stage 3 (Monday 13th): Newtown > Swansea (149.7 km)

Stage 4 (Tuesday 14th): Minehead > Teignmouth (171.3 km)

Stage 5 (Wednesday 15th): Tavistock > Glastonbury (176 km)

Stage 6 (Thursday 16th): King’s Lynn > Great Yarmouth (90 km)

Stage 7 (Friday 17th): Bury St Edmunds > Colchester (152.3 km)

Stage 8 (Saturday 18th): London, Docklands (100 km)

With the exception of the final stage in London, every stage features at least one major climb, with stage three likely to provide an exciting finish with the closing 300-metre ascent of Constitution Hill in Swansea. Stages one, four and six should also provide a long, straight bunch sprint with finishes on the seafronts at Blackpool, Teignmouth and Great Yarmouth. But all the stages should provide a great spectacle, and maybe a chance to see some of the sport’s up-and-coming riders close up. I watched the finish of stage two of the 2008 race in Newbury, where Matt Goss (then of CSC) won a tight sprint finish. Now with HTC-Columbia, Goss is currently the main lead-out man for Mark Cavendish at the Vuelta, where he has played a prominent role in the Manxman’s victories in the last two stages. You never know which future star might emerge this year …

ITV4 will be showing highlights of the Tour of Britain at 7pm every evening.

Links:

Tour of Britain official website

Cycling Weekly

ITV.com

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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