Wiggins, Haussler and Greipel among star turns at Tour of Britain

Sky aiming to impress on home roads

A tough eight days of racing awaits the peloton at the Tour of Britain, which gets underway on September 11. As usual, there is no time trial and with just six riders per team and no shortage of willing attackers in the line-up, the race will be difficult to control and hard-fought all the way to the finish in London. Last year’s winner was Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), and once again it seems as though the route is ideally suited to a fast finisher who can get over the hills.

The route

The race begins with a 133km stage from Rochdale to Blackpool, and Bradley Wiggins will be in familiar territory as the stage takes in some of his training roads around the Trough of Bowland. In the early part of the day, the peloton will tackle some rugged terrain, but a flat 60km run-in to the line should set up a sprinter to take the first yellow jersey of the tour on Blackpool Promenade. The following day follows a similar trend, with the climb of Gun Hill featuring before a fast finish in Stoke-on-Trent.

Stage three will produce the first real shake up of the general classification on the road from Newtown to Swansea. A tough day on rolling Welsh terrain is topped off by the steep cobbled climb of Constitution Hill in the finale. Coming just over a kilometre before the finish, it could well be a turning point in this year’s race.

More undulating roads follow over the next two days in the southwest of England with stage finishes in Teignmouth and Glastonbury, where breakaways will have ample opportunity to stay away.

The action shifts to the southeast for stage 6 with a stage that begins by hugging the Norfolk coastline ahead of a rapid finish in Great Yarmouth, where the sprinters should reign supreme, while the penultimate stage from Bury St. Edmunds to Colchester could well see another pursuit between the escapees and the sprinters’ teams.

A circuit race in London once again provides a fitting climax to the week’s action. This year’s finale provides a taster of the 2012 Olympic Games with a route traced around the Olympic Borough of Newham that should guarantee a fast-paced finish to the Tour of Britain.

The riders

The star attraction at the Tour of Britain will be Team Sky as the outfit makes it maiden assault on glory in its home tour. Last year’s winner Edvald Boasson Hagen is not present this time, but the British team boasts a strong home contingent, with Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, Russell Downing and Steve Cummings all set to start. Meanwhile, Sky’s New Zealander Greg Henderson was in fine form at the Eneco Tour and he should be to the fore in the sprints in Britain.

HTC-Columbia’s line-up is built around a fast-finishing sprinter. Unfortunately for the home fans, it’s André Greipel rather than Mark Cavendish, but the German appears to be the best sprinter in the field. With Mark Renshaw, Tony Martin and Marco Pinotti all on board, he can rely on the support of arguably the strongest team in the race as he looks to sign off on his time at HTC-Columbia in style.

Under normal conditions, Cervélo’s Heinrich Hausler would fancy his chances of success at a race made up of rugged terrain and fast finishes, but the race will likely serve as an important part of his rehabilitation from knee injury. British trio Roger Hammond, Jeremy Hunt and Daniel Lloyd will also compete for the soon-to-be-defunct team.

Saxo Bank boasts former Tour de France green jersey Baden Cooke in its ranks as well as Manxman Johnny Bellis and the impressive Australian Richie Porte. Garmin-Transitions have fastmen Murilo Fischer and Robbie Hunter at their disposal, while the in-form Daniel Martin will be looking to test his legs on Constitution Hill ahead of his late-season objectives in Italy.

Another man currently high on confidence is Patrik Sinkewitz (ISD-Neri), fresh from victory at the Giro della Romagna. Vacansoleil’s line-up includes Wout Poels, recent winner of a stage of the Tour de l’Ain. Colnago-CSF are also bringing a strong team to the race, led by Manuel Belletti and Domenico Pozzovivo, while Kenny Hummel will be eyeing glory in the sprints for Skil-Shimano.

Irish champion Matt Brammeier leads the An Post-Sean Kelly squad and an Irish national selection also takes part and includes the aggressive Stephen Barrett.

A number of British teams other than Sky are also competing and they will not be lacking in motivation for the biggest race on their calendar. Of these, Rapha-Condor-Sharp appears the strongest, with Kristian House and Dan Craven set to start, but Endura Racing, Sigma Sport-Specialized and Raleigh will all be hoping to feature prominently.

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