By Gerry McManus
Great Britain is currently cycling crazy. The British Cycling Team's Olympic Games success in Beijing, China last month has already started to have an effect on the public's knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport. Seats for the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Manchester, England in October sold out in a matter of days rather than the months it usually takes.
As a result organizers of this year's Tour of Britain are expecting bigger numbers than usual out on the roads watching the race. Tour de France hero and triple Tour of Ireland stage winner Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) will be sitting this one out, but British Olympic medallists Bradley Wiggins (Team Columbia), Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) and Chris Newton (Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk) are on the provisional start sheet to give the British someone to cheer for.
The Tour looks good on paper. The inclusion of ProTour teams CSC-Saxo Bank and Columbia alongside Team Garmin-Chipotle, Agritubel and Barloworld ensures that some of the best riders in the world will be on show. Stuart O'Grady, Bradley McGee (CSC-Saxo Bank), David Millar, Magnus Backstedt (Garmin-Chipotle) and Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) are some of the standout names on the start list. Britain's Jonathan Bellis gets his chance to show what he can do as a stagiere riding for the CSC-Saxo Bank team.
Pinarello CandiTV come into the race after a successful foray in Ireland where Russell Downing won the An Post green points jersey and finished second overall in the general classification behind Marco Pinotti (Team Columbia). Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk's Chris Newton leads his team in his first stage race after winning the bronze medal on the track in Beijing.
Last year's mountains winner Ben Swift rides in the Great Britain team with national road race champion Rob Hayles and regular national team team-mates Andrew Tennant, Ian Stannard and Jonathan McEvoy. Romain Feiliu (Agritubel) returns to defend the title he won last year after he won the race on count-back to the prologue, where the judges had to look at the decimal points on time to decide the winner.
To read the full preview, click here.