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Race gains prestige in fifth year
Geoffrey Lequatre (Agritubel)
Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel) will start as number one in this year’s eight-day Tour of Britain Cycle Race to defend the title he won last year. The Frenchman heads up a strong team that includes former French road race champion Nicolas Vogondy, Christophe Laurent and Emilien Berges.
Lequatre will have fierce competition in 2009 with the race featuring teams all so familiar from this year’s Tour de France like Garmin-Slipstream, Cervélo Test Team, Columbia-HTC, and Ag2r La Mondiale. Euskaltel – Euskadi and Team Katusha. However many of the big stars are on duty in the Vuelta España and will miss the British Tour.
The Columbia-HTC team features former TOB double stage winner Edvald Boasson-Hagen who is hotly tipped to be joining Team Sky in 2009. The talented Norwegian’s team looks the strongest on the provisional start list which includes Thomas Lovkist, Tony Martin and Mark Renshaw..
Other names linked with the new Sky team are also on the provisional team list including Barloworld duo Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard (ISD Neri) and Ben Swift (Katusha). Stannard has been recovering from a foot injury that saw him miss out on a ride in the Tour of Ireland but the British rider will be keen to improve on his third place overall last year.
Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) is the British star who will be greeted by enthusiastic British cycle fans after his amazing performance in the Tour De France. Wiggins’s performance in this race will depend on his end of season agenda that includes preparation for the road time trial world championship in Switzerland at the end of the month.
One rider who forced a rethink by British Cycling selectors is Russell Downing (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta). Downing had been told he was not on the ‘long list’ for the road worlds in Mendrisio, Switzerland later this month but he forced his way back into contention for a British team place when he won the Tour of Ireland last month. The Yorkshire man won the first stage into Waterford and held onto the yellow jersey on the tough final stage in Cork. Downing will certainly fancy his chances of a podium place on home soil.
Nicolas Roche is firmly on the team list for Ag2r La Mondiale and this race is a great opportunity for the Irishman to show the form he had in this year’s Tour de France.
Joker Bianchi will debut in Britain with Lars Petter Nordhaug showing that his team can take on the ProTour boys after he broke away with Downing to win the final stage in the Tour of Ireland last month.
Filippo Pozzato rides in the Katusha team wearing the colours of the Italian road race champion. His other achievements this year include second place in the Paris Roubaix classic and you can’t rule him out of contention for overall victory.
The race starts in Scunthorpe on Saturday 12th September and travels northward to York as the riders begin an anti-clockwise route around Britain travelling over the border to Scotland before travelling down for two stages in the South West via stages in Blackpool and Stoke on Trent.
You can expect to see the big team buses in the car parks this year with a number of gruelling stage transfers to cover before the race finishes with a spectacular criterium in the City of London - up and down along the Thames from Westminster to Whitehall on Saturday 19th.