By Nick Bull
If Thursday's exciting Tour of Britain stage – won by Sky's Wout Poels atop Hartside Fell following a large surge – whet your appetite for more exciting, end-of-season racing, then tomorrow's instalment of the national tour should fulfil that craving.
The 192.7-kilometre route from Tour favourite Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham will likely prove the race's final GC shake-up. Racing begins in Hanley at 10:30am, with live coverage on ITV4 and Eurosport from 1pm and 1.15pm resepctively. There's no excuse not to watch either in person or on the box, but if you're in need of persuading, then keep on reading to see why you think you should.
The GC battle
Just one second separates yellow jersey wearer Edvald Boasson Hagen from second placed Poels. The former leads the race by virtue of the bonus second he's amassed in the three bunch sprints served up in the opening four stages. “How much time can I take tomorrow? I hope two seconds,” joked Poels after the stage. “One second is not a lot, but it could be enough for Boasson Hagen. I'll do my best. “
The stage win
So far, Sky and Etixx-Quick Step have taken turns winning stages in this year's race: that leaves 18 teams without one. The likes of Movistar, LottoNL-Jumbo and BMC have all sent strong teams to the race, but have yet to have a rider triumph.
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Stage six is by far the toughest of this year's race. While not the longest, 192 kilometres over the up-down-up-down terrain of the Peak District is going to split the peloton into several groups. This region always tends to make or break the race.
There are three categorised climbs – Millstone Edge (KM83.7), Beeley Moor (KM120.9) and Cromford Hill (KM137), but the organisers could have added plenty more if they had wished. One domestic pro told Cycling Weekly today: “If I get through tomorrow OK, that's one to tell the grandchildren.”
The first challenge
One of those uncategorised climbs is Gun Hill, which the riders reach the top of after 18.7 kilometres. A regular in the modern and old editions of the Tour of Britain, it was where Bradley Wiggins famously turned around in the road to wait for then team-mate Mark Cavendish in the 2012 race. There won't be live TV coverage at this point; if you're local, why not ride out to it?
Rider will pass through places such as the spa town of Buxton, Belper with its award-winning High Street and the delightful Whaley Bridge en route to the finish. The race helicopter should provide spectacular shots for TV once again.
The Nottingham finish
It's 10 years since the home of Robin Hold hosted a Tour of Britain finish. In fact, the first editions of the modern race visited the city; Tom Boonen and Sergei Ivanov took the stage wins, one from a bunch sprint, one from a break. If tomorrow's lead group coming into the finish at the Forest Recreation Ground contains as many riders in it as it did when Boonen won, we'd be surprised.
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