Sunday the 9th September sees the 2012 Tour of Britain (ToB) kick off as the 9th edition of the UK stage race departs from Ipswich. The ToB has been known under several names in the past which include the Milk Race (1958-1987), Kellogg’s Tour (1987-1994) and PruTour (1998). The current race features 8 stages strewn across the British Isles as this year’s ToB covers 1,349.9kms of UK tarmac, with stages taking place in Scotland, England and Wales. Past winners include Lars Boom, Evald Boasson Hagen and Nick Nuyens.
Although not held in the same high regard as some of the races held in Europe and the rest of the world, the Tour of Britain is recognised by the UCI and is part of the UCI Europe Tour and holds a UCI rating of 2.1. Despite the low ranking of this race, the ToB has grown from strength to strength in the last couple of years and gives the British public a great opportunity to experience a stage race right on their doorstep. With some big names taking part this year the ToB promises some good racing on some of the best routes the UK has to offer.
So let’s have a look at where the 2012 ToB will head to during the 8 stages.
The counties of Suffolk and Norfolk play host to the first stage of the 2012 race. The opening stage sets off from Ipswich and sees the peloton embark on a relatively flat stage which should see a sprint finish on the Norfolk show ground. Andre Greipel claimed a similar stage victory at this location in 2010 so a bunch sprint to finish should be the order of the day. A few small climbs shouldn’t trouble the riders too much but should give those focussing on the Skoda King of the Mountains SKODA King of the Mountains Jersey a chance to get some points on the board. A gentle 203km leg turner to get things rolling.
During last year’s ToB, stage 2 had to be cancelled due to bad weather. This stage was to start right on the door step of the Probikekit Towers however hurricane Katiahad other plans and the stage was postponed due to concerns of rider safety. Hopefully the British weather for stage 2 of this year’s ToB should be better as the riders set off from Robin Hood country, passing over the peak district before finishing in Knowsley in the north west of England. Despite the valleys, hills and moors of the Peak District testing the peloton early on, the flat lanes of the Cheshire looks to set up the stage for another bunch sprint to finish.
The ToB heads north for stage 3, across the border and into the bonnie land of Scotland. Expect some of the most stunning landscape scenery seen on the 2012 Tour. Expect a rural backdrop as the peloton leaves the market town of Jedburgh. Three successive SKODA King of the Mountains climbs will challenge the mountain goats. The stage eventually starts to flatten out, a few lumps here and there shouldn’t trouble the riders too much. HTC managed to set up Cav perfectly for the sprint finish on this stage last year so we could see Team Sky attempting something very similar.
Stage 5 crosses back over the border to start at the city of Carlisle. The day starts out fairly flat as the peloton leaves the Cumbrian city behind and heads for the Lake District National Park. On the way there are points on offer for the sprint jersey and the SKODA King of the Mountain up the category 2 Shap Fell. The riders then head down to Kendal where the peloton passes right past the doorstep of Probikekit.com. The route then heads towards the finish on the coast as Blackpool plays host to another ToB stage finish. Despite breakaway riders winning similar stages in the past, the pace should pick up considerable towards the end of the stage catching any break away attempts setting the stage finale up for a bunch sprint.
Stoke has been a part of the Tour of Britain for the last five years, and stage 5 continues this tradition with the days riding starting and finishing in the city. This stage features an undulating route that takes in various climbs in the Peak District National Park. In previous years the Stoke-on-Trent Stage has proved key in the outcome of the overall Tour of Britain title, and with a testing route once again, the IG Gold Jersey could change hands on the post-race podium.
Stage 6 sees the riders head to the Welsh hills on a stage that looks very similar to the 2011 stage in the same area. This stage takes in some of the best climbs Wales has to offer as the KOM contenders hit several category one climbs. Some steep climbs are matched with some breathtaking down hill runs. This stage is not for the faint hearted as the peloton draws ever closer to the climax in London.
The West Country greets the ToB for Stage 7 of the 2012 race. Starting in the former river port town of Barnstaple, the peloton embark on the rolling roads of Dartmoor. Some more stunning landscapes and scenery will pass the riders by as the peloton starts to grit their teeth as the final end is in sight. After a tough week of riding in their legs the peloton will be vulnerable to splinter groups. A fast, but straight descent towards the seafront sets the stage for the finish line along the quayside. Possibly a stage for a break away win.
After 7 long stages of grueling racing the riders embark on the final stage of the ToB in Surrey. A challenging 150km route through the hills of Surrey will give the riders one last obstacle to overcome before the IG Markets Gold Jersey is presented to the overall race leader.