British cycling stars Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas and Roger Hammond gave a pre-race press conference in Edinburgh on Saturday ahead of the start of this year’s Tour of Britain, which kicks off today in Peebles, Scotland.
The trio faced the assembled media alongside race organiser Mick Bennett.
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“It’s really exciting to be back at The Tour of Britain, I’ve not raced since 2007 so it will be great to race in front of a home crowd,” said Cavendish, who is part of strong line-up assembled for the HTC-Highroad team.
“That’s always special for any rider. I am glad to get a start here, I’ve been training well and hopefully I will taper well for the World Championships. Eight days is a good length of Tour as final preparation for the World Championships. I am not here just to ride the route, I want to win stages and we want to be successful.”
Expectation is high for there to be a British winner of the Tour of Britain for the first time since it was re-born in 2004. Welshman Geraint Thomas is the stand-out favourite for the overall win for Team Sky having worn the white jersey during the opening week of the 2011 Tour de France and won the Bayern Rundfahrt stage race in Germany earlier this season.
“I am here to do the best I can,” said Thomas. “It has been a long year but we’ve got a strong team here and we want to win the race. It’s a tough race and it’s grown over the past few years. We’re looking forward to it and hopefully come away with the jersey.”
Tour of Britain double stage winner (2005 and 2006) Roger Hammond is one of the more experienced British riders on this year’s star-studded start list and joins fellow Briton Daniel Lloyd in Garmin-Cervelo’s ToB squad.
“It is a great event for British riders. It’s nice to come back and race in your home Tour,” said Hammond.
“Since I first rode in 2004 it’s evolved hugely. Just look at the start sheet to see that. Also how well it’s received by the public. In 2004, nobody would have known it was on or you would have had to win the Tour de France to get people to come and support you. And it’s not only grown in the race itself but the team and support around it.”
The 2011 Tour of Britain starts on Sunday September 11 in Peebles, and finishes in Westminster, London, on Sunday September 18.
(l-r) Roger Hammond, Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas and race director Mick Bennet pose with the yellow race leader’s jersey
The rider talk to the press
Mark Cavendish is aiming for stage wins in his preparations for the World Championship later this month
Geraint Thomas heads Sky’s hopes for an overall win
Roger Hammond first took part in the Tour back in 2004
Mark Cavendish signs autographs