A strong and very competitive contingent of home riders will be aiming for success against some powerful foreign competition in the Tour of Britain, which starts with a stage from Glasgow to Castle Douglas today. This second edition of the revamped British tour continues with stages to Blackpool tomorrow, in West Yorkshire on Thursday, the East Midlands on Friday, a time trial in Birmingham on Saturday and concluding with a criterium in Westminster on Sunday.
The in-form Recycling.co.uk are represented in the race for the first time. Their six-rider line-up comprises Rob Hayles, Chris Newton, Paul Manning, Russell Downing, Dean Downing and Rob Sharman. National road champion Russ Downing says "to ride your own national tour with the [national champion's] jersey on your back is going to be amazing, I definitely want a stage win."
25-year-old Sharman is the youngest member of the team and has proved recently that he is in excellent form taking the overall lead in British Cycling's Premier Calendar Series. "It's been really surprising, it's taken me some time to get going but I'm really happy, I seem to be on form at the right time," says Sharman. "I'm looking forward to the experience, I don't know quite what to expect yet, I'd like to think I'd get a little bit of action, but my main job is to look after Chris, I hope I can repay the work that he's done for me."
T-Mobile has loaned three young British stars from the T-Mobile Development Squad to the Great Britain team this week. Up-and-coming talents Ed Clancy, Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas are all hoping the experience they have gained with the German team will pay off with some eye-catching performances.
Cavendish has been passed fit to start following a stomach bug, but is still feeling the affects of the illness. A world champion on the track having taken the Madison gold in Los Angeles in March, the 20 year old from the Isle of Man is hoping to make an impact in the bunch sprints. Junior Paris-Roubaix winner Thomas, who is working his way back to top form after an operation to remove his spleen earlier this year, and world team pursuit champion Clancy will also benefit from the experience provided by former British champion Roger Hammond, who has been allowed to compete by his Discovery Channel team.
The inclusion of the Birmingham time trial has led to Quick Step's world TT champion Michael Rogers being installed as pre-race favourite, although the Australian will face strong opposition from the Quick Step and T-Mobile teams, as well as the home riders looking to get a break into the big time.
For full race details go to www.tourofbritain.com