The 2013 Tour of Britain heads to Scotland for its grand depart, taking in a massive 209km stage on the opening day before dropping down into the Lake District and then to Knowsley for the 16km, decisive individual time trial.
The undulating route continues through Wales and on to Dartmoor in the south west for a hill-top finish before heading east to the final conclusion in London, where fans will line the roads by the thousands to welcome stars like Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma QuickStep) at the finish.
The 2013 Tour of Britain will certainly enjoy one of its best fields in recent years. The opening stage certainly suits the sprinters, with Cavendish set to face off against the likes of Sacha Modolo (Bardiani) and Jose Rojas (Movistar).
However the second stage, which travels along the coastline as it passes through Seaton and Wokington, could well see the peloton fracture. 225km in length and with Honister Pass and Chesnut Hill coming in the second half of the race, the overall standings could see a dramatic shake up after the sprinter’s clean run on stage 1. The climbs may come to far out from the finish to see a small group stay clear but they will give an early indication as to whether the likes of Quintana and Wiggins are looking to target the overall classification.
Stage 3 will see the time trial specialists come to the fore and with Bradley Wiggins and Alex Dowsett using the event as a warm up the Worlds. A home stage win would do wonders for a rider’s confidence. Dowsett – the winner of the last TT in the race, back in 2011 - and Wiggins may well assume the race lead if he wins. However their chances of riding into London with the leader’s jersey may well be determined by outside factors: the Worlds team time trial takes place on the same day that the Tour of Britain finishes.
Stage four to Llanberis sees the peloton set off from Stoke on Trent, where Marc De Maar won a stage last year. This time around the race heads west and into Wales, with a run through Wrexham before the serious climbing starts. After three intermediate sprints the climbs start, with three categorised ascents: Groes, Llansannan, Pey y Pas, the latter coming with roughly 10 kilometres to go. Any advantages gained in the time trial will have to be carefully managed on such a demanding stage. A sprint from a select group looks likely and if he’s recovered from his injuries, Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) and Elia Viviani (Cannondale) could be the ones to watch.
Stage 5 of the race is an all-Welsh affair: a 177.1km race from Machynlleth to Caerphilly, which has seen finishes at the Tour of Britain for the last two editions of the race. With four categorised climbs - two ascents of Caerphilly mountain in the final 20km – the race could once again be turned on it’s head.
However the uphill finish at Haytor on stage 6 may well prove to be as decisive as the time trial. The final 5km climb comes after two warm-up ascents and the likes of Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Philip Deignan (UnitedHealthCare) will be looking to claim a stage.
After the climbers’ opportunity, the race returns to the flats with stage 7 to Surrey perfectly-suited to an early break or a sprint finish. Three first category climbs are positioned early in the stage before a flat second half into Guildford.
All that remains is the customary circuit in England’s capital before the 2013 winner of the Tour of Britain can be crowned.