The ‘hardest ever’ Tour of Britain has been unveiled, with a grueling final stage in the Surrey hills ensuring the winner shouldn't be decided until the last moment.
It will be first time Britain’s biggest professional cycle race has visited the area, which will see riders arrive atop the cobbled High Street in Guildford. A big omission from the schedule is London, which will still be recovering from the road closures of the Olympic Games earlier in the summer.
The Tour begins on Sunday 9 September in East Anglia, with Ipswich hosting the Grand Depart. The race winds through Suffolk and Norfolk before finishing on the Norfolk Showground on the outskirts of Norwich.
Stage two may be another one for the sprinters, starting from Nottingham Castle and heading across the Peak District National Park before a unique finish at Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside, alongside the elephant enclosure.
A short hop over the border sees the race return to Carlisle for the first time since 2005 for stage four. 156kms of Cumbrian and Lancastrian roads await, passing through Kendal on its way to a finish on Blackpool Promenade. Organisers will be hoping for a more fruitful return to the seaside town in 2012, after last year's visit was curtailed due to high winds.
Over 2,000 metres of climbing await on stage five, starting from Stoke-on-Trent’s Trentham Estate and finishing once again in the City Centre, tackling Cannock Chase, the Staffordshire Moorlands and Gun Hill on the way.
The race returns to the National Trust’s Powis Castle, Welshpool for stage six, a long stage down through mid-Wales to Caerphilly. Riders will tackle the fearsome Caerphilly Mountain twice before the finish outside the world-famous Caerphilly Castle.
Devon will host the penultimate stage, heading from Barnstaple on the county’s north coast to Dartmouth on the south coast via Dartmoor.
The final leg in Surrey will see riders head from Reigate, through the finish line in Guildford and out onto the Surrey Hills.
“The route of this year’s Tour is certainly our toughest yet, and to coin a phrase a race of two halves,” said Race Director Mick Bennett. “I am sure it will make for some spectacular action this September, and look forward to seeing bigger crowds than ever at the roadside in what is British sport’s biggest year”.