After three debilitating stages of the 2015 Tour of Britain, the idea of some respite on stage four will strike the peloton as eminently sensible.
However, race organisers SweetSpot have plotted a course more challenging than the typical ‘transitional’ stage, and with a start studded with landmarks.
Stage four begins in Edinburgh, and rolls out into a neutralised zone that wouldn’t disgrace an open top bus tour of the Scottish capital.
“There are some major landmarks in the neutralised zone, with Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Houses of Parliament,” says course director, Andy Hawes.
“We go up the Golden Mile, past Edinburgh Castle, and pass around Arthur’s Seat. Within the first handful of kilometres in the neturalised section, they’ve pretty much had a mini tour of Edinburgh.”
Riders set for a day of sight seeing will have their illusions shattered within the first 30km. The profile rises sharply at the 27km mark and the East Lothian village of Pentcaitland, before levelling off momentarily 11km later for the intermediate sprint at Gifford.
From here, the road rises dramatically to over 400m at the summit of the second category Redstone Rigg, one of the highest roads in Scotland, boasting a peak gradient of 17 per cent. If the peloton’s response to the Nick O’Pendle on stage two can be taken as a guide, we can expect fireworks.
Hawes, however, foresees no drama for the parcours (“It’s an undulating run along the Northumberland coastline. Nothing should be too much trouble”) but is rather more emphatic on the topic of the weather and the riders’ proximity to the Northumberland coast.
“The weather could play a massive part on this section of the route,” he says. “It’s open and exposed to the elements and the North Sea.”
He’s not joking. Almost the entire route unfolds on the coastline, and the sea will be in sight of the peloton at the final sprint prime at Warkworth and at the finish in Blyth.
Anything less than invasive weather conditions, however, should ensure a bunch sprint in Blyth. Team Sky's Elia Viviani has already won two stages. André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) will wish to prevent him from adding a third to his tally.