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5th Tour of Britain - 2.1
Great Britain, September 7-14, 2008
By Gerry McManus
Great Britain is currently cycling crazy. The British Cycling Team's Olympic Games success in Beijing, China last month has already started to have an effect on the public's knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport. Seats for the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Manchester, England in October sold out in a matter of days rather than the months it usually takes.
As a result organizers of this year's Tour of Britain are expecting bigger numbers than usual out on the roads watching the race. Tour de France hero and triple Tour of Ireland stage winner Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) will be sitting this one out, but British Olympic medallists Bradley Wiggins (Team Columbia), Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) and Chris Newton (Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk) are on the provisional start sheet to give the British someone to cheer for.
The Tour looks good on paper. The inclusion of ProTour teams CSC-Saxo Bank and Columbia alongside Team Garmin-Chipotle, Agritubel and Barloworld ensures that some of the best riders in the world will be on show. Stuart O'Grady, Bradley McGee (CSC-Saxo Bank), David Millar, Magnus Backstedt (Garmin-Chipotle) and Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) are some of the standout names on the start list. Britain's Jonathan Bellis gets his chance to show what he can do as a stagiere riding for the CSC-Saxo Bank team.
Pinarello CandiTV come into the race after a successful foray in Ireland where Russell Downing won the An Post green points jersey and finished second overall in the general classification behind Marco Pinotti (Team Columbia). Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk's Chris Newton leads his team in his first stage race after winning the bronze medal on the track in Beijing.
Last year's mountains winner Ben Swift rides in the Great Britain team with national road race champion Rob Hayles and regular national team team-mates Andrew Tennant, Ian Stannard and Jonathan McEvoy. Romain Feiliu (Agritubel) returns to defend the title he won last year after he won the race on count-back to the prologue, where the judges had to look at the decimal points on time to decide the winner.
Stage 1 of the race sees a brand new circuit and a return to the very heart of London for the Tour of Britain. The course is based around the Embankment and features some of the great landmarks of London. This is one for the criterium specialists like British Criterium Champion Dean Downing (Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk) but the stronger teams could control things for their sprinters.
Stage 2 features two provincial towns of Milton Keynes and Newbury with nothing particularly tough to worry the sprinters. We should expect to see an exciting sprint between Alessandro Pettachi (LPR Brakes), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Columbia) and Julian Dean (Garmin-Chipotle).
Stage 3 starts in beautiful Somerset going from the town of Chard to Burnham on Sea with three tough climbs of Steeple Hill (Cat 2) and Mile Hill (Cat 1) and the final climb of Cothelstone Hill at 156 km, which could provide the platform for a race winning break.
Stage 4 takes the race from Worcester through Wolverhampton in the Midlands up to the town of Stoke on Trent for 156 km of racing. The climb of Jiggers Bank (Cat 2) is the hardest of the day at 88 km.
Stage 5 the race transfers about 200 km to get to the Kingston upon Hull start from the finish in Hanley on the previous day heading to Dalby Forest. Three climbs in quick succession punctuate the end of this 168 km stage: 138 km Falsgrave (Cat 2), 152 km North Side (Cat 3) and 155 km Dalby Forest (Cat 4). The challengers for the E.ON King of the Mountains jersey will have to show their powers of endurance here and the man in yellow will have a tough time defending his lead today.
Stage 6 from Darlington to Newcastle, Gateshead is one for the sprinters on a comparatively flat day. They have three sprint points at Harelaw, Morpeth and Seaton Sluice. Two small climbs should not cause any damage today.
Stage 7, held around the city of Glasgow, features a crucial stage start with tired legs heading 153 km to Drumlanrig Castle and the 9.6 km category one climb of the Mennock Pass. This is the sort of climb that Garmin-Chipotle's Daniel Martin will relish if he has recovered from a virus that struck him in the Tour of Ireland last week.
Stage 8 will see the peloton race through England's North West from Blackpool to Liverpool. The route follows the coastline closely, before entering Liverpool for six exciting laps of a city centre circuit in Liverpool.