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Tour of Britain - 2.1
Great Britain, September 9-15, 2007
By Gerry McManus
Martin Pedersen (Team CSC) will return to the Tour of Britain on September 9 - 15 to defend the yellow jersey he won last year. The Danish professional out-sprinted Luis Passamontes (Unibet.com) and Matt Goss (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) on the first stage into Castle Douglas and was then crowned the overall winner after Tom Boonen won the spectacular finish in front of Buckingham Palace in London a week later. Goss briefly took the yellow jersey from Pedersen last year but now rides side by side with the Dane after the young Australian was picked up by the Team CSC outfit.
Seventeen teams of six riders contest the 950 kilometre event that kicks off with a 2.5 km prologue in London's Crystal Palace Park on Sunday afternoon. Some 102 riders will head down the start ramp to start the week-long event and the strong teams are likely to show their form in the stage which will allocate the race leader's yellow jersey for the first road stage from Reading to Southampton.
British race fans will be hoping that the race for the overall classification will not be virtually over after the first stage as seems to be a regular occurrence in so many end of season tours. The race planners have designed the race with a tough stage from Liverpool to Kendal on the penultimate day, which could still see the lead won or lost after 170 km of racing punctuated by three second category climbs and a long descent to the finish at Beast Bank.
Team CSC is currently ranked as the world's number one team in the UCI classification and will be ready for action in all of the race categories. Argentinean Juan Jose Haedo, who has had a successful season with stage wins in the Tours of California, Georgia and the Rund um Koln, is in place as the team's sprinter. He also sprinted to victory in the Philadelphia International Championship.
T-Mobile is the second ProTour registered team riding the 2.1 UCI classified event and is likely to get most of the vocal support from home fans. British riders Mark Cavendish, Roger Hammond and Ian Stannard are all confirmed on the start sheet this week. Cavendish is only in his first year with the successful T-Mobile outfit but has already repaid the team's faith by winning stages and points classifications in the Volta a Catalunya, Four Days of Dunkirk, Post Denmark Rundt and the ENECO Tour stage races. Hammond is a fast finisher in his own right and the former double stage winner in the Tour of Britain could take advantage of the teams watching Cavendish and could sneak away to win again.
Linus Gerdemann could be looking for the climber's jersey here. The 24 year-old German has already shown his climbing ability by reaching the summit of the Col de la Colombiere alone and descending into Le Grand-Bornand to win stage seven of this year's Tour de France and take temporary possession of the race leaders yellow jersey.
Tinkoff Credit Systems have surprised many in its first year. The team's performances won them a wild card invitation for the Giro d'Italia, where they were constantly on the attack with the likes of Mikhall Ignatiev, the Olympic points race and U23 Time Trial champion. The Russian cycling star is leading the way this year for the team with stage victories in the Tour of the Mediterranean, Ster Elektro Tour, Vuelta a Burgos and the Regio Tour, where he also finished second overall. Ignatiev is equally at home on the road as he is on the track and may be the short odds favourite for the prologue victory on Sunday. Let us not forget that Salvatore Commesso is a former double Italian champion and Tour de France stage winner who can win on any terrain.
There is a large British presence in the peloton with Paul Manning leading a young GB team of Ed Clancy, Jonathan Bellis, Russell Hampton, Andrew Tennant and Alex Dowsett. Welshman Geraint Thomas rides with Ben Swift in the Barloworld team and former British Champion Hamish Haynes rides with Daniel Lloyd, Evan Oliphant and Daniel Fleeman in the DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed team.
Robert Hunter will lead the Barloworld team that surprised the world with its performances in this year's Tour De France. Hunter won Stage 11 of the Tour in Montpellier to become the first South African rider to achieve that accolade. He has also won a stage and took overall victory in this year's Tour de Picardie.
Plowman Craven Evans Cycles is amongst the first timers in the event, but the top British team has shown in the recent Tour of Ireland that it will not be there to merely make up the numbers. New Zealander Gordon McCauley won the recent Tour of Pendle and strives to keep form ahead of his participation in the UCI World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. The Recycling.co.uk team will be led by the wise head of Chris Newton who confirmed his top rider status by winning the season long British Cycling Premier Calendar road race series. Rob Partridge was drafted into the Recycling.co.uk team late in the year to support the team's promising youngsters. Newton will be in with a shot for the prologue if he has had the chance to prepare carefully for the short blast around Crystal Palace Park.
Wesley Sulzberger is likely to lead the challenge from SouthAustralia.com-AIS team managed by former top pro Neil Stephens. Sulzberger finished fourth overall and second in the Under 25 classification in last month's Tour of Ireland.
The Rabobank Continental team has a talented team entered for the fourth British tour. 18 year-old Boy Van Poppel has already confirmed the that he has inherited some of the talent from his sprinter father Jean-Paul Van Poppel when he won the Junior World Cyclo-cross championships in 2006. Father Jean-Paul had a seriously successful career where his numerous victories included 10 stages in the Tour de France. Martijn Maaskant will wear the white jersey as current leader of the UCI European Tour race series.
Prologue Sunday, September 9 - 2.5 km: Crystal Palace Part A 2.5km loop of the former car racing circuit. There is one small climb which will ensure the EON sponsored KOM leader's jersey in worn on stage one
Stage One- Monday, September 10 138.9km: Reading to Southampton. Two cat three climbs and three sprints will mix up the racing a little. Home teams need to be active in every break if they want to contest the overall classification as one could easily drift away if the top teams are all represented.
Stage Two Tuesday, September 11 169.2km: Yeovilton to Taunton Picturesque route from Yeovilton to Taunton in Somerset with a large loop allowing spectators two glimpses of the race. Toughest day for the climbers with the 1st category climb at Porlock Hill giving max points for the EON sponsored KOM jersey.
Stage Three Wednesday, September 12 - 152.5km: Worcester to Wolverhampton: The race travels to the Black Country city of Wolverhampton via the Malvern Hills. There will be some very sore legs after this stage if the tough get going.
Stage Four Thursday, September 13 163.3km: Rotherham to Bradford From the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham to the city of Bradford, the stage could be described as an easy day but the 1st category Cow and Calf climb at 142km could be the platform to launch a race winning break.
Stage Five Friday, September 14 170.1km: Liverpool to Kendal. The longest day from Liverpool to Kendal. After an easy start along the coast to Southport it will be undulating all day.
Stage Six Saturday, September 15 156.5km: Dumfries to Glasgow. Over the border into Scotland from Dumfries to Glasgow. Nowhere flat to ride all day. It could still be won or lost on this stage in all of the categories with three sprint and KOM points en route.