Mick Bennett, the OVO Energy Tour of Britain race director, has revealed that the world’s fastest riders are excited about this year’s route which offers many opportunities for the sprinters.
The national race, which takes place between September 3 and 10, is noticeably different this year compared to previous editions in that there is no hill-top finish for the first time since 2012 and there is only one stage of undulating parcours which usually characterises the race.
Additionally, the race finishes in Cardiff and not London as per tradition and in fulfilment of a long-time agreement with the Welsh capital.
Six of the eight stages will most probably eventuate in a sprint, although Bennett has pointed out that there are a number of finishing circuits for the riders to negotiate which could add drama and prevent a bunch finish. Weather, too, could play a part in deciding the outcome
“When I have spoken to the top sprinters in the teams – the Mark Cavendishs, [Alexander] Kristoffs, Kittels, [Nacer] Bouhannis – they have loved the course,” Bennett told Cycling Weekly.
“They like the idea that one year the course will be more in their favour and they’re excited.
“We have had extreme finishes in the past and four years ago we introduced the hill-top finish.
“We decided this year to come down the east side of the country more, to have a classic 10 mile time trial [in Clacton], but also to have a race for the rouleurs and sprinters this time, instead of having a race more varied, for the all-round rider.
“We’ve also introduced circuit finishes in the fishing venue: we look at innovation each year. This is the change – whether it’s a good one, we are going to find out.
“But the riders make the race, not the terrain. It’s the riders and weather that will make this race, not the fact that you have got flattish, less undulating routes.
“In the early part of the race, the first four stages at least, [it should be decided by sprints], but they’re also technical and the wind coming in off the east coast… you could have a situation where the whole race could split into five echelons without a sprinter in the front group.”
A large number of riders prepare for the World Championships by racing the Tour of Britain and the sprint-friendly route in Bergen for this year’s course was a leading reason behind the ToB’s flatter course.
2018’s Worlds are a much more mountainous affair – so can we expect the Tour of Britain to include more hills? “It’s a very fair and likely assumption,” Bennett commented.