The 2015 Tour of Britain was unveiled at Wembley Stadium in London on Tuesday night with a revamped route that will include a tough summit finish, a grand depart in Wales, and a final stage in London. The race runs September 6-13 with stages also visiting Nottingham, Edinburgh and Blyth, although the race will not have an individual time trial.
"Overall we are absolutely delighted with the course for the 2015 Friends Life Tour of Britain and believe it offers something for everybody across eight very different stages," said race director Mick Bennett.
"Our hope and intention is to again encourage eight days of aggressive, uninhibited racing, the sort of action that we hope is becoming the trademark of the race. We want our national tour to reflect the tough terrain which is part and parcel of our cycling scene in the UK, and to showcase both the race and the British countryside to spectators at the roadside and to the television audience both at home and around the world."
The race starts with a 177km stage from Beaumaris, Anglesey to Wrexham with the route set to take in all six regions of North Wales. The stage, relatively flat, should see the sprinters come out on top.
Stage 2 sees the race head back to Lancashire for the first time since 2010 with a stage from Clitheroe to Colne that will take in the Forest of Bowland and Dunsop Bridge. The route could see the pure sprinters distanced with a number of short undulations before the finish. It's a stage where any riders with GC aspirations will have to be attentive.
The race then heads into Scotland on stage 3 with the a 216km route that should once again favour the sprinters, with the parcours traversing through Carlisle, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, before finishing in the grounds of Floors Castle at Kelso.
The second stage in Scotland will see the race head out from Holyrood Park in Edinburgh before heading to the Borders and Northumberland and to the finish on the coast, in Blyth. The stage heads south and along the coast, where cross-winds and weather could certainly play a part. It's a day for a break to go clear but again, the GC could be effected if the leaders fail to pay attention.
Toughest climb in race's history
The following day’s action on stage 5 will see the race move into climbing territory as the 171km stage traces along Hadrian's Wall from Prudhoe in Northumberland into Cumbria and the Lake District before finishing atop Hartside Fell in the Pennines.
The five-mile long climb reaches 1,904 feet and according to the race organisers provides "the highest and toughest summit finish in the modern Tour of Britain's history." It's the only climb on the stage and should provide the perfect showdown between the climbers and the GC contenders.
From there, the race heads south with a stage from Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham and the longest stage of 225km on stage 7 from Fakenham to Ipswich.
The final day in London sees the return of a flat city-centre stage but with a new course taking in Regent Street St James, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the Strand and Whitehall. It should be another day out for the sprinters and their teams.
At the route presentation in London, British Cycling President Bob Howden commended the race and its work in helping to ignite interest in the sport.
"This year's route will excite any fan of cycling and further boosts the Friends Life Tour of Britain's reputation as one of world cycling's must-watch races, but it will also give people all over Britain a chance to see some of the world's best riders in action and encourage them to get out on their bikes."
Race organisers aim for world-class field
With the race a possible stepping-stone towards the World Championships, the Tour of Britain will be hoping to once again attract a world-class field for the event. Last year Michal Kwiatkowski and Bradley Wiggins both took part in the Tour of Britain and went on to win rainbow jerseys in Spain.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Bennet said: “It did not escape people’s notice that the most successful riders at last year’s world road race championships in Ponferrada – Michal Kwiatkowski in the road race, Brad Wiggins in the time trial – competed at the Tour of Britain rather than the Vuelta a Espana."
Etixx-QuickStep and their star sprinter Mark Cavendish have taken part in the Tour of Britain on several occasions and the door is open for Wiggins to compete as part of his WIGGINS squad ahead of his Rio Olympics bid in 2016. The 2012 Tour de France winner has yet to confirm his entire race schedule after he hangs up his wheels at Team Sky in April.
Tour of Britain stages
Stage One Sunday 6 September Beaumaris, Anglesey to Wrexham, 177km
Stage Two Monday 7 September Clitheroe to Colne, 162km
Stage Three Tuesday 8 September Cockermouth to Floors Castle, Kelso, 216km
Stage Four Wednesday 9 September Edinburgh to Blyth, 218km
Stage Five Thursday 10 September Prudhoe to Hartside Fell, 171km
Stage Six Friday 11 September Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham, 189km
Stage Seven Saturday 12 Septmber Fakenham to Ipswich, 225km
Stage Eight Saturday 13 September London stage presented by TfL, 93km
The full race route