This year's Tour of Britain begins in Rochdale, Greater Manchester on Saturday 11 September with a tough first stage to Blackpool.
Around 100 professional riders – including famous names like Olympians Bradley Wiggins and Ed Clancy – will take on the 133km route, which passes through the beautiful Forest of Bowland.
Highlights are likely to include the three King of the Mountain climbs – Waterfoot to Deerplay Moor, Trough of Bowland and Westfield Towers – the sprints at Cockherham and Stalmine, and the fast run in past the Pleasure Beach to the finish on Blackpool Promenade.
For Steven Burke (Motorpoint – Marshalls Pasta), who won a bronze medal in the individual pursuit at the 2008 Olympics, it will be a great chance to race on home soil – he lives in nearby Colne.
“It’s going to be a tough first stage to Blackpool, right from the off," said the 22-year-old. "I think there’ll be a few splits but it all should come back together for a sprint finish on the promenade. For sure, it’s going to be tough stage for all the riders.”
While it's the first time the Tour has visited Rochdale, Blackpool has been on the route five times, including for two stage finishes – in 2005 when Roger Hammond won, and in 2009 when eventual Tour winner Edvald Boasson Hagen took the honours.
Wigan-based Richard Handley, 19, is a member of the Team Raleigh squad that is making its Tour of Britain debut this year. "It’s going to be a baptism of fire, but I’m looking forward to it," he said. "It’s good to start pretty close to home, as the first stage is local for me, so I can expect my mum and dad to come out and cheer me on."
Race director Mick Bennett said: "We’re delighted to be returning to England’s Northwest for the Grand Depart of this year’s Tour of Britain. We have an excellent, world-class field of riders from 17 top teams taking part, so whether spectators are coming to Rochdale, Blackpool or one of the King of the Mountains climbs in the Forest of Bowland, they're in for an unforgettable experience.”