VIDEO: No flat road in sight as riders look ahead to Dartmouth Tour finish
Tour of Britain organisers hope a summer of success for British cycling continues into the autumn, after announcing a route yesterday which should see the tussle for victory go to the wire.
With Team Sky riders Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish seeking Tour de France success in July and Olympic success afterwards, Britain’s prospects on two wheels in 2012 are better than ever.
The longest Tour of Britain yet at 1,349.9 kilometres, which begins on September 9 in Ipswich, Suffolk, and ends a week later, could make it an Indian summer, with a battle for podium places until the finish in Guildford, Surrey.
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The Tour’s penultimate day, September 15, will be spent in Devon. The 170.7km seventh stage from Barnstaple to Dartmouth will be a coast-to-coast ride across Dartmoor which will challenge all the riders, without a flat section in sight.
The route will re-visit some towns which have hosted stage starts and finishes in recent years, including Bideford, Hatherleigh and Tavistock.
It will also wind its way through communities such as Instow, Great Torrington, Okehampton, Princetown, Buckfastleigh, Kingsbridge, Torcross and Stoke Fleming.
Devon rider Jon Tiernan Locke thrilled his home crowd last year, taking maximum points from the Skoda King of the Mountains climbs on Dartmoor. He went on to win the King of the Mountains jersey and finished fifth overall.
His Endura team have been confirmed as one of the squads who will compete over the eight days, and he said: “I’m definitely keen to ride in The Tour of Britain again.
“Last year went really well, and it was truly special being on my local roads. The Devon stage was my main focus and I didn’t think about the King of the Mountains jersey until I went up the road and got a few points. That’s when I thought it was something I could definitely get.
“I’m not sure if I’ll have the same objective this year – it might be a stage win or the overall classification. But it’ll be a great occasion to have Britain’s best cycle race back in our local area. I know Dartmoor well and Dartmouth will be a stunning finish.”
Race director Mick Bennett said: “We’ve got a race of two halves. The initial first four stages are designed for the sprinter, rouleur-types, rather than the climbers.
“Then the race gradually builds – from Stoke-on-Trent, through Wales, Devon, all the way to the final day in Guildford – in severity.
“People may think the Devon stage is going to the decider, but we’ve gone right down to the wire this time with a stage in the Surrey Hills to Guildford. It’s not for the faint-hearted, you’d be a fool if you threw everything at the Welsh and the Devon stage and wasted yourself prior to Guildford,” Bennett added.
“The final climb of the whole race comes with about 25km to go, White Down. It’s dreadful. It really is a horrible climb.
“If you’re in yellow you’re going to need to really defend vigorously on the final stage – it certainly won’t be an exhibition stage.”
Cavendish could compete for the final time as the 2011 world champion and parade his rainbow jersey around the country in a race which can provide key preparation for the 2012 World Championships in Limburg, Holland the following week. Asked about the Manxman’s participation, Bennett said: “I think it would be highly probable, but there’s never a guarantee.”
For the first time since 2008, when the race finished in Liverpool as part of the city’s European capital of culture celebrations, the event will end outside of London on a cobbled finish in Guildford. The final Surrey stage is different to the route for the Olympic road race, which Cavendish is hoping to win on July 28.
There are challenges hosting a true Tour of Britain, featuring all regions of the country, while last year, for the first time, Hurricane-force winds forced the cancellation of a stage, leaving Bennett to become something of a meteorologist in the lead-up to this year’s race.
In a packed calendar, the race has had to battle to retain a desirable date in the calendar, too. As well as Cavendish and Wiggins, who took part in the event in 2010, there could be an opportunity to see some of Britain’s track stars, who are vying for Olympic glory in August.
Team GB pursuit squad members Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh (both Team Sky), Ed Clancy, Andy Tennant (both Rapha Condor Sharp) and Steven Burke (Team IG-Sigma Sport) could all participate in the Tour, if selected by their teams.
Tour of Britain route: Sept 9: Ipswich to Norfolk Showground (199.6km). Sept 10: Nottingham to Knowsley Safari Park (177.8km). Sept 11: Jedburgh to Dumfries (161.4km). Sept 12: Carlisle to Blackpool (156km). Sept 13: Trentham Gardens to Stoke-on-Trent (146.9km). Sept 14: Welshpool to Caerphilly (189.8km). Sept 15: Barnstaple to Dartmouth (170.7km). Sept 16: Reigate to Guildford (147.7km).