The fourth edition of the Tour of Britain, starting on Sunday September 9, is the biggest yet, comprising of six stages plus a newly introduced short prologue time trial.
Starting in London for the first time, the route travels west and then north for the final stage culminating in Glasgow on Saturday, September 15.
A total of 102 riders in 17 teams (six riders per team) will line up at Crystal Palace on Sunday for the prologue. Monday?s stage starts in Reading and winds down to the coast in Southampton. Then it?s on to Somerset on Tuesday, from Yeovilton to Taunton.
As the race heads north, the riders then have a long transfer to Worcester for Wednesday?s stage to Wolverhampton. Further north still, Thursday?s route runs from Rotherham to Bradford. Then it?s over to Liverpool on Friday for the longest stage of the Tour, finishing in Kendal.
The riders then cross the border for the final stage in Scotland, starting in Dumfries and finishing in Glasgow, where the race started last year.
Though not featuring any mountain passes, the Tour of Britain offers a lumpy parcours incorporating 16 categorised climbs, four of which are first category. There’ll be enough for the climbers to make a mark if they get their moves right.
If we?d have to pick one stage which would shape the race, it will be Tuesday?s West Country trip, where the riders will have to traverse the three hills of Porlock, Watersmeet and Wheddon Cross on their way from Yeovilton to Taunton.
Naturally, there?s a strong British presence at the race with Roger Hammond, Mark Cavendish and Ian Stannard on T-Mobile?s team; Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift on Barloworld?s line-up, plus several British-based teams including a Great Britain squad.
Other Tour de France riders in attendance include stage winners Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) and Robert Hunter (Barloworld).
TOUR OF BRITAIN: STAGES
From Crystal Palace in London to Glasgow, here?s our guide to the Tour of Britain?s stages.
Sunday, September 9. Prologue: Crystal Palace, 2.5km
The largely flat route around the former motor racing circuit at Crystal Palace provides the spectator-friendly venue for the prologue. Fastest rider gets to wear the race leader?s yellow jersey into stage one. First rider off at 3.01pm, last at 4.45pm.
Monday, September 10. Stage one: Reading-Southampton, 139km
Palmer Park Velodrome in Reading hosts the start of today?s jaunt to the coast. Expect a bunch sprint if the riders survive wandering ponies and cattle grids in the New Forest en route.
Tuesday, September 11. Stage two: Yeovilton-Taunton, 169km
The final third of today?s stage features three climbs that are likely to split the bunch, particularly if there?s a wind blowing across Exmoor. Perfect for a small breakaway group to make a mark and dictate a new race leader.
Wednesday, September 12. Stage three: Worcester-Wolverhampton, 152km
Two first category climbs appear in the first 55km of the stage today, but it?s likely that the riders will wait until the final climb of the day at Sutton Bank to launch a late attack to the line.
Thursday, September 13. Stage four: Rotherham-Bradford, 163km
The legendary climb of the Cow and Calf will undoubtedly play a part in today?s Yorkshire stage. Expect another late attack.
Friday, September 14. Stage five: Liverpool-Kendal, 170km
Today?s stage runs through some of Britain?s most stunning scenery, with hills to match. Skirting the Yorkshire Dales, and then through the Forest of Bowland and onto the Lake District, the leader?s team will be stretched to the limit defending the yellow jersey.
Saturday, September 15. Stage six: Dumfries-Glasgow, 156km
Offering a largely flat stage, the final day?s racing in Scotland will give the sprinters one last chance to show their mettle. The run-in to the line is far from straightforward, with three 90-degree bends and a U-turn packed into the final three kilometres.
Total distance: 951.5km
Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen
Plowman Craven-Evans Cycles
Team Konica Miolta
Tinokff Credit Systems
Here the five men most likely to challenge for the overall classification of the Tour of Britain.
Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile). Tour stage winner and yellow jersey wearer Gerdemann is a key member of one of just two ProTour teams in attendance. As one of the bigger riders on a bigger team, he’ll be a marked man, with the other squads wanting to put one over on him. Without any big mountains, Gerdemann will have to make his moves on the hills and hope that any time he puts into the opposition sticks.
Martin Pedersen (CSC). Last year’s Tour of Britain winner returns to defend his title. Pedersen won stage one in 2006 and kept the lead all the way to the finish. However, he has done little since winning last year’s event but there’s no doubt that with the might of CSC behind him, he’ll be a hard man to beat.
Roger Hammond (T-Mobile). One of Britain’s most experienced pro riders, two-time ToB stage winner Hammond has finally settled in at T-Mobile in a set-up that suits him well. Hammond was not happy about being left out of his squad’s Tour de France pick and has made the Tour of Britain his target for the second part of 2007.
Evgeni Petrov (Tinkoff Credit Systems). Seventh in the Giro d’Italia this year, Petrov is the one to watch during the opening prologue having been a former winner of Russia’s national time trial title. Tinkov, a Continental Professional ranked squad, will be out to put one over on their ProTour rivals and have a strong team to back up Petrov.
Daniel Lloyd (DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed). Lloyd came second in the British National Road Race Championships behind David Millar and second in China’s Tour of Quinghai Lake, missing out on the win by just one second. Lloyd has the legs and experience to be the surprise package in his first outing at the Tour of Britain.
1 Martin Pedersen (Den) CSC
2 Luis Pasamontes (Spa) Unibet.com
3 Filippo Pozzato (ita) Quick Step
1 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick Step
2 Michael Blaudzun (Den) CSC
3 Javier Cherro Molina (Spa) Communidad Valenciana
1 Mauricio Ardila (Col) Chocolade Jacques
2 Julian Dean (NZ) Credit Agricole
3 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick Step
Tour of Britain: www.tourofbritain.co.uk