Tour of Britain 2015: stage six – preview

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“There isn’t a harder stage for climbing than this one.” – Andy Hawes, course director, Tour of Britain
After five stages, the Tour of Britain reaches another gear. Stage six gives every appearance of being decisive.
The 192.7km run from Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham is a climb-laden affair, with the presence of three second category climbs barely telling the story.
A saw-tooth stage profile is a better guide to what awaits the riders. The ascent of Gun Hill, for example, critical to the outcome of the 2011 edition, does not even warrant classification this year.
Course director Andy Hawes is in little doubt about the significance of the sixth stage to the outcome of this twelfth edition of the modern Tour of Britain.
“This is the big one,” Hawes says. “Today, the GC guys are going to want to be on top of their game.”
Where stage two offered the scenic delights of Lancashire, and stage five took the riders through the similarly inspiring Lake District, today the race hits the Peak District national park. The picturesque town of Bakewell, headquarters to L’Eroica Brittania, is on today’s agenda.
Little the riders will care. They have other things to consider than scenery. The stage profile boasts 14 peaks, including three category two climbs: the ascent of Millstone Edge at 83.7km, Beeley Moor at 120.9km and Cromford Hill at 137km.
“There are many features of the parcours,” Hawes says. “This is possibly the Queen Stage of the whole tour. There is over 3,500m of climbing, which is the most in any of the stages. There isn’t a harder stage for climbing than this one.”
The previous stage, and a summit finish on Hartside, reshaped the GC, and while there is stille doubt surrounding the overall outcome, it is within the power of the favourites to remove it today.
“There are some superb climbs,” Hawes continues. “They’re all category two climbs,  but by the nature of having left Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire moorlands, we’re straight into the heart of Derbyshire and the Peak District. This is not a sprinter’s stage!”
While his analysis is likely to be shared by the peloton’s quick men, the route planned by Hawes and colleague Steve Baxter for today’s endeavour is likely to find favour with the small coterie of elite climbers who have travelled to Britain.
Team Sky’s Wout Poels, yesterday’s stage winner, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Robert Kiserlovski, and LottoNL-Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk will find nothing to trouble them unduly, but the relentless undulation will sap others before them.
From the home riders, young climbing talents like Tour de Korea winner Mike Cuming, his JLT-Condor team-mate Rich Handley, and under-23 time trial champion Scott Davies (Great Britain) might seize the opportunity to make an impression on the race.
“I think the race could be won or lost on this stage,” Hawes says. We should not discount, therefore, the all-rounders from whose ranks overall victors have often emerged at this wildly unpredictable race. Step forwards yellow jersey Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) who yesterday delivered arguably the best climbing performance of his career at Hartside.
British champion Peter Kennaugh, just 1.22 behind Boasson Hagen, still cannot be discounted.
Will stage six be the most talked of at the end of this year’s national tour? Don’t bet against it.
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