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Race Preview: The Tour of Britain 2017

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With Mark Cavendish, Fernando Gaviria and Caleb Ewan among the stars, the 2017 Tour of Britain has been designed to attract a world class field of finishers

Photographs: Marc Atkins / Offside / SweetSpot

14th Tour of Britain
Eight-day stage race, Great Britain
September 3 to September 10 2017

 

The Tour of Britain is increasingly positioning itself as the World Championships warm-up race. With this year’s champs in Norway one for lightweight sprinters who can punch a bit the course has been designed accordingly, catering to and attracting the same sort of rider.

 

The race is packed up to the gills with intermediate sprints – three per stage – so expect the separate sprints and points jerseys to be at least as fiercely contested as the general classification.

 

All the same, time bonuses on offer at every sprint point could quickly add up. A sprinter without a particularly strong TT might be minded to use them to reduce his deficit on the race of truth and put himself in contention for the overall.

 

As at the Women’s Tour, the Tour of Britain offers a Best British Rider prize, sponsored by a certain East Anglian brewery. This should provide some welcome attention to the likes of Team Great Britain, JLT Condor, Madison Genesis and ONE Pro Cycling.

 

Tour of Britain 2017
Stage 1, Sunday September 3 Edinburgh to Kelso (190km)
Stage 2, Monday September 4 Kielder Water & Forest Park to Blyth (211km)
Stage 3, Tuesday September 5 Normanby Hall Country Park to Scunthorpe (178km)
Stage 4, Wednesday September 6 Mansfield to Newark-on-Trent (165km)
Stage 5, Thursday September 7 Clacton to Clacton (16km)
Stage 6, Friday September 8 Newmarket to Aldeburgh (187km)
Stage 7, Saturday September 9 Hemel Hempstead to Cheltenham (185km)
Stage 8, Sunday September 10 Worcester to Cardiff (180km)
Total distance: 1,312km

 

 

The Route
For the first time since 2012 the race will not finish in London. This year’s edition of the race is also only the second time in its history that it won’t have visited the capital at all.

 

Instead Cardiff hosts the finale, with Edinburgh the start of the race on Saturday.

 

Lest you dare dream that a trip to Scotland might mean mountains, we hate to break it to you but this one, like all the others, is likely to end in a sprint. It’s a bike race, so of course there’s always a chance that the script won’t be followed, and the opening day does at least offer the longest climb of the week. This will be the second time in recent years that Redstone Rigg has featured in the Tour, with Andy Tennant fastest up in 2015 – at least according to Strava.

 

On that day Fernando Gaviria wound up winning the stage, which finished in Blyth, Northumberland, and which is also the venue for the Stage 2 finish this year. Of the three categorised – in the British sense – climbs on that day, one is called Winter’s Gibbet, while another is Corby’s Crags. Never let it be said that rural England doesn’t know how to name things.

 

Tour of Britain

 

Stage 3 sees the 2017 Tour of Britain return to Lincolnshire for the first time since 2009. The race starts at the 300-acre Normanby Hall estate, famous in recent times for being where Samantha Cameron grew up.

 

The whole of Stage 4 takes place in Nottinghamshire. There’s just the one categorised climb late on, with only ten points on offer in total, and apart from the time-trial it’s the shortest stage of the week. That should mean an early finish and give the riders plenty of time to squeeze into their skinsuits for tomorrow.

 

Which is where, most likely the race will be decided. Stage 5 is a pan-flat, ten mile time-trial in Essex. Do you think they had any particular rider in mind when they decided to include this one?

 

Alex Dowsett Tour of Britain

 

Although absolutely an out-and-back, it’s not quite the traditional A-road route. The course still manages to avoid being too technical, as it loops round the seaside town of Clacton-on-Sea. Alex Dowsett’s going to want this one more than anyone else, but does he have what it takes?

 

Stage 6 finds the riders back on traditional East Anglian Tour of Britain turf. Starting in Newmarket and finishing in Aldeburgh. Famous past residents of Aldeburgh include Benjamin Britten, Roy Keane, when he briefly managed Ipswich Town FC, and author Ruth Rendall.

 

Despite starting in the famously bumpy Chilterns Stage 7 does an impressive job of avoiding anything resembling a climb until it gets to Buckinghamshire. From Brill Hill through Oxfordshire and onwards to Cheltenham. The Gloucestershire spa town is truly embracing the race, holding a festival of cycling in its honour.

 

Stage 8 features some short sharp shocks en route to three laps of a 7km Cardiff city centre circuit where the overall winner will be crowned. While the start town of Worcester has been a relatively frequent stop for the modern Tour of Britain, this is the first time Cardiff has hosted a stage.

 

Stephen Cummings Tour of Britain

 

Previous Winners
2016 Stephen Cummings (GBR)
2015 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor)
2014 Dylan Van Baarle (Ned)
2013 Bradley Wiggins (GBR)
2012 Nathan Haas (Aus)
2011 Lars Boom (Ned)
2010 Michael Albasini (Swi)
2009 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor)
2008 Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra)
2007 Romain Feillu (Fra)

 

Front Runners and Big Names
If you wanted proof that the Tour of Britain was the defacto pre-game – that’s when Americans go round to someone’s house to drink before they go out so it doesn’t cost them as much – for the World Championships, you’ll find it in the (provisional) startlist.

 

Because both the big Norwegians, who will be the home favourites on a Bergen course effectively designed for them, will be rolling out of Edinburgh on Saturday.

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen is the only rider to have won the modern Tour of Britain more than once and he’ll have designs on a casquette-trick of victories. He produced several of the rides of his career at this year’s Tour de France, with a thrilling stage win and several oh-so-close second places.

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen

 

Alexander Kristoff is the other Norwegian hoping to ride himself into form before returning home to Bergen. Kristoff hasn’t had a bad year, and his results include five top tens at the Tour de France, but he has failed to reach the top step of a single top tier race.

 

As long as his team look after him, and if he performs at his best in Clacton, it’s not inconceivable that Alex Dowsett could win the whole thing. It would, however, require a marked improvement on his time-trial results so far this season. He’s only won one of seven in 2017 – at the lowly ranked Circuit Cycliste Sarthe – and finished outside the top ten in four.

 

Geraint Thomas will be one of Dowsett’s biggest threats, and arguably the favourite for that stage after his win at the Tour in Dusseldorf. It’s odd to think, given his spell in yellow, he might be hungry to salvage something from the season, but after crashing out of both the Grand Tours he’s entered, 2017 certainly hasn’t gone quite as he’d planned.
Although on his team’s reserve list, reigning champion Steve Cummings is not expected to start the Tour of Britain, which means Mark Cavendish will be Dimension Data’s protected rider.

 

 

After his unfortunate exit from the Tour de France, Cavendish will be also hoping to last the distance at the Tour of Britain. Maybe he’ll bag a stage win or two along the way. That he brings with him his familiar sprint train is a sure sign of intent.

 

His competition in the sprints includes Fernando Gaviria and Orica-Scott’s Caleb Ewan. At least one of these two is surely the heir to Cavendish’s champion sprinter’s throne.

 

Fernando Gaviria: cycling’s ‘bottomless pit’ of power

 

One of the strongest teams on paper is that of Lotto NL-Jumbo. The dutch outfit bring three 2017 Grand Tour stage winners, and one former winner of the Tour of Britain itself.

 

Other big guns include Tour de France Super Top Banana Michel Kwiatkowski and Cannondale’s Pierre Rolland. Dan Martin is also racing for the first time since the Tour de France.

 

Taylor Phinney’s Tour de France: Daydream Believer

 

Dark Horses, Outside Bets, and Wild Cards
Taylor Phinney will be hoping to cause an upset in the time trial. With his team’s future hanging by a thread, he might also be looking to impress the talent scouts.

 

Phinney’s teammate Hugh Carthy could have one eye on the best British rider prize. Given a bit of freedom, and if he’s able to find allies, we might see him making something out of the break.
After missing out on places at the London-Surrey Classic, due to its upgrade in status, the British continental teams will be grateful to ITV for showing the whole of each stage live. That should provide incentives, should they need them, to fight their way into breakaways at the very least.


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