Revived Tour of Britain hits the road
Tuesday, August 31, 2004 11.00pm
After five years of absence the Tour of Britain is once again on the road. Ellis Bacon of procycling
For the first time since 1999, Britain plays host to a major professional cycling event. The Tour of Britain has risen again, this time as a five-day, five-stage race, beginning in Manchester on Wednesday (today) and finishing with a city circuit stage around Westminster in the capital on Sunday afternoon. The race organisers have managed to attract some big names to British shores. Among them, T-Mobile's Andreas Kloeden, runner-up to Lance Armstrong in this year's Tour de France, Tom Boonen (Quick Step), winner of two stages at the Tour in July, including the finale on the Champs Elyses in Paris, and newly-crowned Olympic pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins, who rides on the road for Crdit Agricole. Wednesday's first-stage loop around Manchester, passing through Blackpool and Preston along the way, takes the riders straight into the hills. There's no 'warm-up' sprint stages like the Tour of Britain's French cousin; the first category climb of Ramsbottom Rake comes just 18km into the 207km stage, and is followed by Nick of Pendle - another first-category climb - less than 30km later. There's no let-up on the second stage on Thursday between Leeds and Sheffield, the hotbed of cycling in Britain, either. Two second-category climbs precede the Peak District first-category climbs of the infamous Holme Moss, the tough climb which has been a regular feature of recent Tours of Britain, and Snake Pass, which comes with just 40km left to race. Bakewell to Nottingham on Friday is by no means flat, but could see the first sprint finish of the race up to that point, with the likes of Ceramiche Panaria's double Olympic gold medallist Graeme Brown, and home favourite Jeremy Hunt (MrBookmaker.com) and Boonen hoping to lead home a bunch gallop. Crossing in to Wales on Saturday, the race takes in a course based on Newport, starting at the new velodrome and finishing at Celtic Manor 160km later. The big finish is 41 laps around a 1.77km/1.1-mile Westminster circuit and, as on the Champs Elyses for the final stage of the Tour de France, it should be more of a processional stage for the overall leader, and another one for the sprinters. The route: Stage 1: Manchester - Manchester, 207km Stage 2: Leeds - Sheffield, 172km Stage 3: Bakewell - Nottingham, 192km Stage 4: Newport - Celtic Manor Resort, 160km Stage 5: Westminster, London circuit, 72.5km Total distance: 803.5km The teams: MrBookmaker.com (BEL) Great Britain US Postal (USA) Wales Quick Step-Davitamon (BEL) T-Mobile (GER) Team CSC (DEN) Scotland Ireland Ceramiche Panaria (ITA) Barloworld (SA) Chocolade Jacques (BEL) Crdit Agricole (FRA) Relax-Bodysol (SPA) Lotto-Domo (BEL) Navigators Insurance (USA)
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