There won't be any Scottish stages or Lance Armstrong but this year's Tour of Britain promises some close racing from start to finish with top teams from the Pro Tour pitting themselves against all five of the UK's Pro Continental outfits. Such is the allure of the race these days that even though it has to compete with the Vuelta and the Tour of Poland all but two of the available slots for teams have been filled and the organisers say that 38 teams have applied to race.
The 2010 Route
Stage 1 – 11 September – Rochdale to Blackpool (126km)
Stage 2 – 12 September – Stoke-on-Trent to Stoke-on-Trent (160km)
Stage 3 – 13 September – Newton to Swansea (150km)
Stage 4 – 14 September – Minehead to Teignmouth (171km)
Stage 5 – 15 September – Tavistock to Glastonbury (176km)
Stage 6 – 16 September – King’s Lynn to Great Yarmouth (189km)
Stage 7 – 17 September – Bury St Edmunds to Colchester (151km)
Stage 8 – 18 September – The TfL London Stage (100km)
Among the teams slated to ride are Team Sky, Columbia HTC, Garmin Transitions, Saxo Bank and the Cervelo Test Team. All five UK Pro Continental teams will also take part: Team Endura, Rapha Condor - Sharp, Sigma Sport, Motor Part Marshalls Pasta and Raleigh.
Stage 1 Racing kicks off in Rochdale with a 126Km dash to Blackpool prom taking in three climbs including the Trough of Bowland. The route snakes in to Cumbria before, if all goes to plan, the sprinters all do their stuff on the prom just in time for the start of the World Fireworks Championships… and why not.
Stage 2 sees the riders tackle a 100 mile loop of the six towns that make up the Federation of Stoke on Trent (didn't even know there was a federation - which once again illustrates the depths of my ignorance) which is 100 years old this year, hence the 100mile route. Again it's a typically lumpy affair which should test the riders – the organisers are keen to make the race physically harder and to also make it harder for one team to dominate proceedings in the way Columbia HTC did last year.
Stage 3 takes the race to Wales with a 150Km run from Newtown in mid-Wales down to Swansea. This will be one for the climbers, with two first category climbs: one of the Black Mountain and the other of the legendary Constitution Hill in the final kilometere "this one won't be a bunch sprint" promised Tour Director, Mick Bennett.
Stages 4 & 5 take the race to the West Country again with stage 4 going from Minehead to Teignmouth (171km) on what again promises to be one of the toughest days of the race. The following day takes the riders on a testing 176km route from Tavistock in Devon to Glastonbury via Dartmoor and the Blackdown hills.
Stage 6 the three hour transfer from west to east for the start of stage 6 in Kings Lynn probably won't be that popular with the riders, but the ones from the Low Countries probably will appreciate the flat (although they've managed to sneak in three third category climbs) and windswept 189Km route that loops out to the North Norfolk coast and then heads south for the finish in Great Yarmouth. The wind blowing in off the North Sea could well play a part in this one.
The race stays out east for Stage 7 too, but the 151Km between Bury St Edmunds and Colchester won't be flat. Instead the riders will slog it out over the up and down country roads of Suffolk and Essex on what should prove to be a very sapping day in the saddle.
London is the location for the Tour of Britain's finale, but this year things will be slightly different - out goes the usual circuit of the West End as the Tour heads east to Newham. The Olympic Borough stepped in at the 11th hour when the security arrangements for the Pope's visit meant that the usual route for what is officially dubbed The TFL London Stage would not be feasible. Instead the riders will race around the Royal Docks for 100km - again we could imagine the wind could play a part in this one - things can get a bit blowy down by the Thames.
Daily ITV coverage
For the third successive year running full coverage of the race will be televised on ITV, with viewers able to enjoy an hour long nightly highlights show of all the action on ITV4, between 7pm – 8pm, with repeats the following day.
Prostate Cancer Charity Tour Rides
Building on the success of last year's rides in Stoke on Trent and London there will be three mass participation Tour Rides taking place on the same routes as three stages of this year's race London and Stoke on Trent will again feature and this year there will also be a West Country Tour Ride giving participants the chance to test themselves over the Stage 4 course. As last year riders will have the choice of three Tour Ride distances - including the full route. Last year's Tour Rides raised over £300,000 for the Prostate Cancer Charity and at today's launch John Neale, Chief Executive of the charity said there target was to raise over £500,000 in 2010.
Sunday 5 September - Stage 4 Tour Ride in the South West
Sunday 26 September - Stage Two Tour Ride, in Stoke-on-Trent.
Saturday 18 September - sees the chance for a more leisurely ride on the final stage course on the last day of the race.
To find out more about the Tour Rides and to pre-register visit www.tourride.co.uk/
We've uploaded all the routes to the image gallery, and you can use road.cc's zoom-o-vision to get a good look at the details...
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