The route of the 2018 OVO Energy Tour of Britain, which takes place from 2 to 9 September, was unveiled in London last night, with the race promising to be tougher than ever thanks to late climbs on some stages and an intriguing couple of days in the Lake District
Starting in Carmarthenshire, the race will conclude in London eight days later. Along the way, it will visit Devon, Bristol and North Somerset, Warwickshire, Cumbria and Nottinghamshire.
Standout stages revealed at last night’s presentation at Glaziers Hall at the south side of London Bridge, compered by broadcaster Matt Barbet, include those two days in the Lake District, the first seeing a team time trial finishing on Whinlatter Pass, the race returning there the following day for a double ascent of the same climb from the opposite side.
Ten UCI WorldTour teams have already been confirmed for the race – BMC Pro Cycling, Lotto Soudal, Mitchelton Scott, Movistar Team, Quick-Step Floors, Team Dimension Data, Team EF Education First – Drapac, Team Katusha Alpecin, Team Lotto NL Jumbo, Team Sky.
They will be joined by the UCI Professional Continental teams Aqua Blue Sport, Direct Energie and Wanty-Groupe Gobert plus the Great Britain national team and four domestic teams that will be confirmed in mid-July.
Race director Mick Bennett commented: “This year we have worked hard to create an innovative and unpredictable route, with several surprises in store throughout the race.
“Several stages have stings in the tail; climbs positioned towards the finale of Stages 1, 2 and 3 will keep the outcome up in the air until the very end.
“Our partners at Cumbria County Council have helped us to achieve something that we have been keen to do for a number of years on Stage 5 – a team time trial that finishes atop Whinlatter Pass.
“This will be a test like no other, as teams will have to get their equipment choices and tactics spot on. The race may not be won here, but some riders could certainly lose it,” he continued.
“In another first for the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, we return to the same climb the following day for a double ascent of our summit finish – although riders will tackle it during a conventional road stage, albeit from its harder eastern side!"
He concluded: “Add in stages in Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire and London, where we’ll build on the successes of last year’s OVO Energy Tour of Britain and OVO Energy Women’s Tour, I cannot wait for the start of September already!”
British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington said: “The OVO Energy Tour of Britain goes from strength to strength as a mainstay of the British sporting year which attracts new fans across the country to our fantastic sport. The 2018 route is one which will really capture the imagination of everyone, whether they cheer from the roadside or watch on television.”
Here's the route in detail, with descriptions provided by organisers SweetSpot.
Stage 1 on Sunday 2 September will see the modern Tour visit Carmarthenshire for the first time, as the race gets underway at Pembrey Country Park. Riders will pass through Carmarthen, Brecon and Usk before the stage finish in the city of Newport. Riders will tackle the 800-metre, 9 per cent average gradient climb of Belmont Hill on the outskirts of Newport inside the final 10 kilometres of racing.
After a year’s absence the OVO Energy Tour of Britain returns to the South West of England and its 10th visit to Devon in the past 12 years. The stage (Monday 3 September) will start in the UK’s newest town – Cranbrook – and finish in Barnstaple following a hilly finale along the North Devon coast that includes the one-kilometre, 13 per cent average gradient climb of Challacombe, near Woolacombe.
Bristol will host the third stage of the race (Tuesday 4 September), a short, sharp out-and-back leg into the north Somerset hills that includes Cheddar Gorge. The finish on the Clifton Down is the same one as used by the race in 2014 and 2016, where Michal Kwiatkowski, Tony Martin and Rohan Dennis have taken victories.
Stage 4 will build on the success of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour’s visit to Warwickshire in 2017 by bringing the men’s race to the county for the first time since 1993 on Wednesday 5 September. The leg will race over 183 kilometres from Nuneaton to Royal Leamington Spa, using many of the same roads that the world’s top women will cover when Britain’s leading women’s stage race returns to the county on 13 June this year.
The race heads to Cumbria and the Lake District for two stages on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 September, the first of which will see an uphill team time trial from Cockermouth town centre to the summit of Whinlatter Pass. The 14-kilometre test gains over 300 metres across its length, with the final five kilometres of the test against the clock averaging 4 per cent.
The following day riders will climb Whinlatter Pass twice more, from its harder eastern side, during a 169-kilometre road stage from Barrow-in-Furness. The second of the ascents up the three-kilometre climb that averages 7 per cent will see the stage finish at the Forestry Commission’s visitor centre.
The penultimate stage sees the OVO Energy Tour of Britain return to Nottinghamshire to build upon the success of the 2017 stage in the county. This year’s longest stage of the race heads from West Bridgford to Mansfield, taking in 223 kilometres.
The 2018 OVO Energy Tour of Britain concludes with a 14-lap circuit race in the heart of London, using the iconic circuit that the 2015 and 2016 editions finished on, taking in Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, before the finish on Regent Street St James.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.