The bookends of the 2022 Tour of Britain are almost a reversal of last year, with a start in Aberdeen and a finish in southern England, this time via a first visit to the Isle of Wight.
It’s an unpredictable route, with few stages you could guarantee will be won by any one type of rider.
Route director Andy Hawes says the 2022 Tour of Britain teams will have to keep a close eye on the road book and use all the tools at their disposal to solve the questions each stage will pose.
Highlights include an opening-stage summit finish at the Glenshee Ski Centre, deep in the wonderful Cairngorms, and a roving route around the Isle of Wight that covers every corner of the island.
Tour of Britain – stage guide
- Stage 1: Aberdeen – Glenshee Ski Centre
- Stage 2: Hawick – Duns
- Stage 3: Durham – Sunderland
- Stage 4: Redcar – Helmsley
- Stage 5: West Bridgford – Mansfield
- Stage 6: Tewkesbury – Gloucester
- Stage 7: West Bay – Ferndown
- Stage 8: Ryde – The Needles
Aberdeen – Glenshee Ski Centre
- When: Sunday 4 September
- Distance: 180.8km
- Total elevation: 2,512m
- Skoda KOMs: Bennachie Forest (Cat 3); My Lord’s Throat (Cat 3); Suie Road (Cat 2); Glenshee Ski Centre (Cat 1)
- Eisberg Sprints: Inverurie; Alford; Ballater
The 2022 Tour of Britain opens in Aberdeen, in exactly the same spot as Wout van Aert clinched last year’s victory in a gripping finale with home favourite Ethan Hayter.
The riders will start in Union Street, though racing will be neutralised until they cross last year’s finish line.
It’s the modern Tour of Britain’s second visit to Aberdeenshire and, after the start, the roads will be different from last year. “It’s always nice to not tread the same path,” says route director Andy Hawes.
The route heads west, towards the Cairngorms National Park, via popular local climbs My Lord’s Throat and Suie Road. It’s up and down all day, but trending up as the peloton makes its way into the Cairngorms.
The stage finishes at the Glenshee ski station at 650m, a rare summit finish on the first day of a week-long stage race. It’s only the final 3km where it begins to bite and Hawes reckons it’s a “big ring climb”.
“In the past I’d have been worried that a summit finish on stage 1 would have a detrimental effect on the rest of the race, and the last thing we want is someone gaining four minutes and the GC be done.”
He can’t see it playing out like that, and even if there was a big gap on the line, there are many obstacles for the leader to jump before the Isle of Wight finish. “It’s a gorgeous climb,” adds Hawes.
“I’m in two minds about what I want the weather to be. I’ve seen it in glorious sunshine, and on darker days like you would expect, and they’re both amazing. It’s so atmospheric, whatever the weather.”
Hawick – Duns
- When: Monday 5 September
- Distance: 174.8km
- Total elevation: 2,547m
- Skoda KOMs: Wanside Rig (Cat 3); Mainslaughter Law (Cat 3); Hardens Hill (Cat 3)
- Eisberg Sprints: Morebattle; Coldstream; Reston
As with last year’s race, this is another hilly week, packed to the gills with climbing.
The previous day’s 2,500 metres of elevation are followed by the same again today and only stage five drops under 2,000m.
We’re again in Scottish Borders territory, but despite the frequency of visits here, Hawes says they’ve found roads, towns and villages they’ve not been to before.
Hawick also hosted the start of stage 7 in 2021, a lumpy stage to Edinburgh won by Yves Lampaert.
The race doesn’t get as far north on this stage, heading out to the east coast town of Eyemouth, before turning around for the Lammermuir Hills, a natural separation between the Borders and East Lothian.
While it will have been hilly up to this point, all three of this day’s King of the Mountains sections fall within the final 20km, three 3rd category climbs – Wanside Rig, Mainslaughter Law and Hardens Hill – and taking the peloton close to 450m elevation.
Rather than another summit finish, the peloton must negotiate a fast and open descent, one that, for the best descenders, will tempt them into stern attacks as they head towards the final summit.
“The last 5km is off the side of a mountain down into the finish in Duns,” says Hawes.
“Anybody who gets away on that final KOM could easily come across the line on their own. I can’t see it finishing in a bunch sprint.”
Durham – Sunderland
- When: Tuesday 6 September
- Distance: 163.3km
- Total elevation: 2,518m
- Skoda KOMs: Chapel Fell (Cat 1); Billy Lane (Cat 2); High Moorsley (Cat 3)
- Eisberg Sprints: Stanhope; Bishop Auckland; Ferryhill
County Durham’s Chapel Fell makes an appearance on day three.
At 627m high, it would be the ceiling of many Tours of Britain, but for the earlier visit to the Cairngorms.
The climb begins in the village of St John’s Chapel, averaging 8.3 per cent over almost 4km.
“The riders who are hanging on in there are going to hate it, as you can see the top from a long way off, it’s very open,” says Hawes.
From there, the stage is up and down, with two more KOMs at 98 and 148km, though nothing on the scale of Chapel Fell.
Around the mid-point, the race speeds through Barnard Castle, which will serve as a step in restoring its image as a County Durham market town, rather than the scene for the scandal involving Dominic Cummings, the former advisor of the soon-to-be-former PM.
The day ends in Sunderland, hosting the race for the first time, with a finish in Keel Square. “The city has been very supportive,” says Hawes.
“They’ve hosted a couple of rounds of the Tour Series. Once places host that, everyone gets excited and wonders what comes next. Often, that’s the Tour of Britain, or the Women’s Tour, which they’re in negotiations to host.
Here, we have an opportunity for a bunch sprint, with the hard part earlier in the stage. The break could go and hoover up a lot of the points in the KOM and sprint competitions.”
Redcar – Duncombe Park, Helmsley
- When: Wednesday 7 September
- Distance: 149.5km
- Total elevation: 2,669m
- Skoda KOMs: Robin Hood’s Bay (Cat 1); Egton Bank (Cat 2); Carlton Bank (Cat 1)
- Eisberg Sprints: Whitby; Stokesley; Newgate Bank
Just 40 miles separate the previous night’s finish and the start in Redcar, for what is the toughest stage on paper – the shortest, but with the most climbing (2,669m).
The route heads south down the coast to Whitby, before turning inland to traverse the North York Moors National Park. It’s set to be a great-looking stage, too.
“I’ve driven the length and breadth of this country in this job over the years,” Hawes says, “and I don’t get too many ‘wow’ moments anymore, where you drive round a corner and the view opens up in a grand way. This year, I had it a couple of times on stage four. It’s stunning. If they’re not going up, they’re going down, the only flat part is the neutralised section.”
The toughest climb, says Hawes, is the final KOM, the Category 1 Carlton Bank, around 26km from the finish. The Newgate Bank climb gets a sprint classification, with another downhill finish into Helmsley, similar to the one into Duns on stage two.
Day four marks the long-awaited return to Yorkshire. Since the ASO-backed Tour de Yorkshire launched in 2015, the Tour of Britain has been locked out of the county, but when the race folded, its doors opened once more.
“Redcar was due to be a finish in the 2020 Tour de Yorkshire and they were gutted when it didn’t happen,” says Hawes.
“Then there was the race’s sad demise after that, and we approached them to see if they wanted to host a start and they said absolutely.”
West Bridgford – Mansfield
- When: Thursday 8 September
- Distance: 187km
- Total elevation: 1,691m
- Skoda KOMs: Keyworth (Cat 3); Sparken Hill (Cat 3)
- Eisberg Sprints: Edingley; Retford; Clumber Park
With four chunky stages through mountain ranges of northern Scotland and England, it seems fair to the riders that they get a stage offering something close to a respite.
It’s hardly flat, though – it almost never is in the Tour of Britain – but with 1,691 metres elevation over the longest stage, the peloton can take stock at the start of the second half of the race and plot to make their move – or stay one step ahead.
There was a stage between these two towns in the 2018 race, won in swaggering fashion by Team Sky’s Brit Ian Stannard, a moment of glory at the back end of a career largely in service of others.
The Essex rider retired in 2020, but will be back at the race as a directeur sportif with British development outfit Trinity Racing.
This time, as is his wont, Hawes has plotted an entirely new route. “It’s one of the easier stages, and they’re needed between the harder days.
“We go through village after village, and towns like Retford and Worksop later in the stage, before the super-fast finish in Mansfield.
“This one on paper has bunch sprint written all over it. Every time we come to Nottinghamshire, it’s tough to find genuine KOMs. We’ve got two, rather than three. One early on and one later.
“It’s a typical Nottinghamshire stage. Towns, villages, forests, open country. It’s good, it gives the peloton a chance to decompress a little after four really tough stages. Usually, I would normally like three hard stages then an easier one, but it’s a day later because of the way we’ve moved down the country. The finish is super-wide, if slightly uphill.”
Tewkesbury – Gloucester
- When: Friday 9 September
- Distance: 165.1km
- Total elevation: 2,158m
- Skoda KOMs: Round Hill (Cat 2); Withington Hill (Cat 3); Crowley Hill (Cat 2)
- Eisberg Sprints: Cirencester; Rangeworthy; Dursley
Gloucestershire is a frequent host of the Tour of Britain, but stage 6 marks the first time it has hosted a full stage entirely within its borders.
The start and finish are separated by a little over 10 miles, so fans can easily visit both should they want to.
There are KOM points up for grabs early in the stage, with Round Hill and Withington Hill falling within the first 50 kilometres.
“Depending on the battle for the KOM jersey, I don’t think the peloton will want a break going too early on in this one,” says Hawes.
The race heads south through the Cotswolds, skirting round Cheltenham clockwise, heading through Cirencester, Tetbury and getting as far south as Chipping Sodbury and Yate, just north of Bristol.
They then turn the ship around and head north towards Gloucester. There are climbs throughout this stage, but given we’re spending so much time in the Cotswolds on day six, the peloton gets a lucky break because it could be far hillier. Two sprints fall within the final 50km.
There remains a sting in the tail, though, with an uncategorised climb just 10km from the finish.
“This year more than any it’s important for teams to study the road book and Veloviewer [road mapping software that many teams use before and during stages in their team cars] and plan what they’re going to do,” says Hawes.
“I think that every stage has something in the dying kilometres that, if they’re not paying close attention, then it could catch them out. I don’t think any one stage this week is going to be written down as being for one type of stage or another, or for one type of rider or another.”
West Bay – Ferndown
- When: Saturday 10 September
- Distance: 175.9km
- Total elevation: 2,377m
- Skoda KOMs: Daggers Gate (Cat 3); Whiteways Hill (Cat 2); Okeford Hill (Cat 2)
- Eisberg Sprints: Dorchester; Wareham; Knowlton
Stage 7 should prove a treat for riders and spectators alike. Remarkably, it’s the first time that the modern Tour of Britain (since 2004) has visited Dorset, and Hawes has served up a barnstormer of a route that showcases the county’s wonderful scenery and stiff climbs.
From West Bay, known for its striking golden cliffs, the route runs parallel to the coast down to Weymouth, turning inland through Dorchester and to Hawes’ favourite part of the stage into West Lulworth, close to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, and into the Isle of Purbeck peninsula and the majestic Corfe Castle.
It’s a tour of some of the coast’s highlights as much as it is a bike race and it’ll be worth tuning in for the helicopter shots of the scenery, as well as the racing.
The route heads inland towards Wareham, Milton Abbas and Wimborne Minster before looping round Ferndown’s town centre for the finish.
“If I was a betting man I’d predict a bunch sprint, the road lends itself to it,” says Hawes. Whatever happens on the road, this is Dorset at its most iconic.
Ryde – The Needles
- When: Sunday 11 September
- Distance: 148.7km
- Total elevation: 2,131m
- Skoda KOMs: Brading Down (Cat 1); Cowleaze Hill (Cat 2); Zig Zag Road/Ventnor (Cat 1); Tennyson Down (Cat 2)
- Eisberg Sprints: Sandown; Yarmouth; Cowes
For the first time, the Tour of Britain arrives on the Isle of Wight. Such are the logistics of getting to the island that the race could only ever start or finish there and, with sporting terrain and wonderful scenery, it’ll be a fitting finale for any bike race.
The island’s size necessitates a route that seems to cover just about every strip of tarmac on the island.
“Yes, we’re pretty much covering the Isle of Wight, that’s definitely ticked off,” says Hawes.
“It’s going to give riders and fans a full flavour of what the island is about.”
Because of how the route traverses the island, fans will be able to catch the race in multiple locations across the day.
“The route crosses over itself but you never get the feeling that you’re close to where you’ve been before. It’s different around every corner,” adds Hawes.
“It’s up and down all day. The helicopter camera is going to be busy, there’ll be some classic shots to be had. It’s a fitting final stage. The military road [which runs down the island’s south west] is four metres from the edge of the cliff in places, and it might not be there for much longer with all the erosion.”
The race ends with a 2km climb up to Tennyson Down, the final 400m averaging 9.6 per cent – the toughest finish to a Tour of Britain, organisers reckon.
“I said before last year’s race, don’t be surprised if the jersey changes hands on the final stage, and there it was, with Ethan Hayter losing it on the line to Wout van Aert. Am
I going to be as bold this year?
“I don’t know, but I think there will be many wearers of the jersey. Positioning on this final climb will be key if there’s all to play for.”