Mick Bennett hoping Bradley Wiggins will close road career at Tour of Britain

Race director has big plans for event's future but not aiming for WorldTour slot

Tour of Britain race director Mick Bennett says that having former champion Bradley Wiggins closing out his road career at the Tour of Britain later this year would ‘mean so much’ to the race. Wiggins’ team have already earned selection for the race due to being the best domestic team in the 2015 edition, and Bennett hopes that Wiggins will live up to his previous statement and return to the Tour of Britain one last time.

“He’s already said that he wants to come back for his final year of racing, but ultimately his team already have an entry as the highest placed domestic team from last year. Hopefully, it will be a gold medal lap of honour through the country for him and his team,” Bennett told Cyclingnews.

“It would be fantastic; He’s an icon, and it’s like having a rock star. He commands a fantastic presence, and he has this aura, and he lives up to every second of it. It means so much to the event. I mean, we have to lay on extra security for him. He’s very open and willing to stand and sign; he’s very much a people person. So is Cav [Mark Cavendish]. There is no other sport in the world where you can get so close to all these superstars.”

Bennett was talking to Cyclingnews ahead of the route announcement for the 2016 edition, which is set to take place between September 4-11. This year’s has already attracted a lot of attention from WorldTour teams with Trek-Segafredo making their debut while Orica-GreenEdge is set to ride it for the first time since their debut season in 2012.

The race has brought in increasingly stronger line-ups but this year it will be sandwiched between the Olympic Games and the World Championships, which takes place at a later date than usual in October.

Despite this, Bennett thinks that they can continue to bring in the big names and provide vital preparation for the Worlds. “We have to bear in mind that we will have riders who haven’t got a spot in the Olympics who will be looking to have a good ride. The Vuelta will also still be on as will the WorldTour races in Canada,” explained Bennett. “The good thing for us though is that we are a week before the Eneco Tour, which is a WorldTour event and the only race similar to that is ours. Then they’ll go from the Eneco Tour to the World Championships.

“Cav has gone into the Worlds and won them after the Tour of Britain; Kwiatkowski won the Worlds after the Tour of Britain and we’ve had BMC ride the Tour of Britain and go on to win the team time trial at the World Championships. I think that history speaks volume for where the Tour of Britain anyway.”

The Tour of Britain is entering into its 12th season after it was given a makeover and relaunched in 2004. In that time, it has expanded to an eight-day race and now holds the second highest ranking available at 2.HC. Recently its female equivalent has stepped up into the inaugural Women’s WorldTour but Bennett has no plans to step above that 2.HC ranking.

“We don’t want any more than that because it is a complete imbalance from the Continental and Pro Continental teams that will ride,” he said.

Bennett still has big plans to extend the reach of the race. “I would like to see an extension to the live coverage,” Bennett explained. “We started with a five-day event, and now we are into eight days. We could probably go into another day, a ninth day. I see an extension to the live coverage to around four hours, so we are very much parallel to the three Grand Tours.

“Some other races don’t have live coverage from the beginning of the stage to the finish. So I want to see more live TV coverage, and I’d like to see more venues taking a leaf out of London and Bristol’s book in closing down their cities to the wonderful carnival and colour of the race. We’re still very young; we’re only 12 years old. We’re not up there with the 50-year-old races like the Tour de Suisse.”

You can find the full route announcement for the 2016 Tour of Britain here.

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