By Gerry McManus
The Tour of the South sets off on its 330-mile journey around the Southern counties of England on Thursday July 27. 16 teams of five riders make up 70 rider roster which sets off on stage one from Crawley town centre, which last year hosted the race’s grand finale, for four days of tough racing.
The riders will be kept busy competing for king of the mountain and sprint points along the way ensuring a competitive race every day. The nominated sprints also offer time bonuses of 3, 2, 1 seconds for the first three riders and the first three across the finish will receive 10, 6, 4 seconds. These could be crucial in deciding the overall G.C.
Last year’s winner Kristian House returns with the in-form Recycling.co.uk team supported by Chris Newton, Dale Appleby, Rob Partridge and Rob Sharman. This race will be perfect preparation for their ride in the forthcoming Tour of Britain, and the riders will be out to help manager John Herety make his team selection for that event.
Recycling will have some tough opposition in the shape of Malcolm Elliott’s Plowman Craven team on an equal professional level, and recognised teams like Arctic/Shorter/Rochford RT and the Glendene CC. However a number of composite teams have been forged under British Cycling region banners and these could prove to be a major threat to the top team aspirations.
On form Joel Stewart rides with Elite riders Karl Freeman and Martin Smith for the Central Region. 31-year-old Stewart is having his best year since his comeback following a long illness and has already won three gold medals at the recent masters track championships.
Mark McKay and Columbian Diego Garavito head up the Eastern Region team and Simon Brooks and Neil Coleman lead the Southern Region team.
Gary Dodd’s South East Region team will be on home soil for the first stage. Dodd’s previous rides in the Surrey League 5-Day race will ensure that he will be regarded as a serious contender for stage and overall victories.
If you are looking for an outside bet then go no further than former professional Luckwell. Luckwell rides for more for fun these days but his talent has ensured he has gained an Elite licence and he rides for GWR Team/Total Bike Swindon supported by Grant Bayton and Nic Tilling.
Stage 1 - July 27: Crawley - Liphook, 85 miles. On the Surrey Sussex borders, taking in a number of tough climbs where the king of the mountains contenders will show themselves.
Stage 2 - July 28: Long Crendon (Oxfordshire), 80 miles. A stage for the sprinters with points and time bonuses on offer in the hot spot sprints.
Stage 3 - July 29: Malmesbury (Wiltshire), 83 miles. Climbers and sprinters fight it out again. Could be a chance for a small break staying clear.
Stage 4 - July 30: Tavistock, 82 miles. The Dartmoor National Park is the backdrop for Sunday’s final stage starting and finishing at Tavistock. Riders will be treated to key climbs five miles from the start and the finish. The tough stage takes in two circuits with multiple KOM and sprint points.