Roberts hails best ever Tour of Britain

Hugh Roberts explains cancellation, Tour of Britain 2011, stage two (cancelled)

Tour of Britain chief executive Hugh Roberts has hailed this year's race the best in its eight-year history.

Speaking to Cycling Weekly in London on Sunday afternoon, Roberts said that the event had reached new heights this time around.

"We have a process of building on previous years and I think we'll look back and say 2011 was our best ever," said Roberts.

"I know we probably say that every year, but we always try to do the best for the fans and we had one of strongest fields to race on British soil for a number of years.

"Also, the feedback we've had from everyone on the race has told us that the crowds have been absolutely enormous. From Cheddar Gorge to Sandringham, they've come out in their numbers."

Moretonhampstead, Tour of Britain 2011, stage five

Cities, towns and villages welcomed the race with open arms

Planning for next year's race is well underway, and Roberts confirmed that the race will once again be eight days long.

"We've got all the stages lined up for next year. Each year we try to mix it up a little bit, for example this year we've varied from flat to arduous courses."

Encouragingly, the popularity of the race means that race organiser SweetSpot has received offers from several new towns and cities who are keen to bring the Tour to their areas.

"There are far more places that want to host the race than we've ever had before which is good but we don't want to be disloyal to those who have supported us over the years.

"I like the idea of starting somewhere fairly remote - outside a castle or beautiful gardens - so we can bring the race to life, and then finish in a big town or city where we can pack the crowds in as well."

Lars Boom podium, Tour of Britain 2011, stage seven

Lars Boom in the IG Markets-sponsored gold jersey

2011 was also the first year in which all the jerseys on offer were sponsored; IG Markets backed the leader's gold jersey while Yodel, Prostate Cancer Charity and Skoda came onboard with the sprints, points and mountains classifications respectively.

"The introduction of new sponsors is part of our plans for expansion," said Roberts.

"We have had opportunities in the past to have a title sponsor, but we resisted this because we don't want the race dominated by a company who wants us to go past their factories or headquarters, for example. I don't think that's right for the race nor for the fans."

Roberts also admitted that the race is moving away from handing out long-term contracts with Regional Development Agencies and councils as they had done to establish the event in 2004.

"I think we're at a point where we can shift from a more regional stakeholder model to more conventional model where companies and brands sponsor the race. We're moving in the right direction, and it's a gradual process. We didn't plan to do this overnight and never will."

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Tour of Britain 2011: Stage reports

Stage 8b: Booms wins overall as Cavendish takes final stage

Stage 8a: Dowsett takes time trial in London

Stage seven: Bagdonas wins from break

Stage six: Booms wins in Wells to strengthen overall lead

Stage five: Renshaw and Cavendish score HTC one-two

Stage four: Hushovd takes stage in Caerphilly

Stage three: Boom wins stage in Stoke to take lead

Stage two: Stage cancelled, riders parade in Kendal

Stage one: Cavendish wins opening stage of Tour of Britain

Tour of Britain 2011: Photo galleries

By Andy Jones

Stage seven photo gallery

Stage six photo gallery

Stage five photo gallery

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one photo gallery

Tour of Britain 2011: Press conference photo gallery

Tour of Britain 2011: Riders warm up photo gallery