The route of the 2005 Tour of Britain was announced yesterday at simultaneous launches in Glasgow and London. C+ took the train up to the Big Smoke to be there - though it would probably have been cheaper to fly to Glasgow.
The two big stories from the launch were that this is now a six day race, up from five days in '04, and that as the Glasgow launch venues suggests the race is now truly a Tour of Britain - ToB Technical Director, Mick Bennnet revealing that the race organisers had inked a three year deal with Visit Scotland securing Scottish starts and stages through to 2008.
This year's race will start in Glasgow on 30th August and end in London on Sunday 4th September.
Sixteen teams - including Discovery Channel, T-Mobile, Quickstep, Phonak and Cofidis are already confirmed.
The stages they will be racing for are:
Stage 1: Glasgow to Castle Douglas - The picturesque finish on the Scottish coast is one for the sprinters according to Mick Bennnet although they'll have to negotiate a steep climb just outside of town which might thin the finishing bunch down a bit.
Stage 2:Carlisle to Blackpool - Last year's Blackpool finish was marred by trouble with traffic. This year the race forms part of the town's £1 billion relaunch as Britain's answer to Las Vegas and the riders will head into the finish along the newly built Blackpool Gateway. Expect a sprint finish.
Stage 3: Leeds to Sheffield - Last year's classic climbing stage revisited, the riders once again get to sample the delights of Snake Pass and Holme Moss. Indeed it's such a crow favourite it will feature in every Tour of Britain, said Mick.
Stage 4: Buxton to Nottingham - aside from 10 miles or so at the start the same route as last year's East Midlands stage, and again it's a sprinter friendly finish in Nottingham.
Stage 5: Birmingham - New for this year the centre of Britain's second city will be closed to traffic on a Saturday afternoon as the men on bikes slug it out on a fast street circuit.
Stage 6: Westminster, London. The same super-fast West End circuit which was such a hit with crowds and riders alike - 45 laps around a one mile circuit starting and finishing in Whitehall, following a route through Trafalgar Square, Northumberland Avenue, Victoria Embankment and Parliament Square. . Mick promised good weather so if it's even half as good as last year this should be a cracking finale to the race.
Aside from the Tour itself there will be mass participation rides in Glasgow and London - with Transport for London (TFL) providing free cycle parking in Trafalgar Square to encourage people to ride in. The final stage will also be preceded by a top class women's race, and the Bob Chicken Trophy - which last year attracted the biggest every field for a UK crit.
Unfortunately Ken Livingston couldn't be there for the launch in London's City Hall, had he though he would undoubtedly have said this: "In the year that London bids to host the 2012 Olympic Games, we are delighted to once again welcome the final stage of the Tour of Britain.
"The Tour of Britain will be a fantastic spectacle and a fun day out. It will help to highlight the health benefits and enjoyment that cycling can offer Londoners and will illustrate the first rate facilities and experiences that London has for all tourists and visitors.''
According to TFL: "The race comes as Londoners are showing an increasing enthusiasm for cycling in the capital for recreation and transport. London-wide cycling increased 23% to May last year compared with 2003/4 and it has increased 62% on Transport for London's road network since 2001. This is the fastest growth in cycling of anywhere in the UK. To help achieve this, TfL's cycling budget is rising from £12 million in 2004 to £19.2 million in 2005/06."