Tour of Britain Key Facts:
• 9 stages split over 8 days visiting Scotland, Wales and England
• 15-kilometre individual time trial on penultimate stage
• Summit finish at Haytor
• Complete live coverage of the race on Cyclingnews and Tour Tracker
• Line-up includes Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Rohan Dennis and Tom Dumoulin
The Tour of Britain was once seen as filler on the international stage – a race sandwiched somewhere between the Tour de France and the Worlds – as it clashed with the Vuelta a Espana and lacked a clear purpose.
However in the last few years the race has transformed massively, and, bolstered by the growing success of home-grown riders, has established itself as one of the premier events on the racing calendar. It may still clash with the Vuelta, which traverses across August and September, but the Tour of Britain has become an important race in its own right and a key step in rider preparation ahead of the World Championships.
The eight-day race starts in Glasgow this year and dips into the Lake District, Wales, Bristol and Bath, before the finale on the streets of London. With summit finishes, a time trial, and a world-class field, the 2016 edition of the race is shaping up to be the best one yet.
The Tour of Britain race route
The Tour of Britain begins on Sunday, September 4 with a grand depart in Glasgow and a finish in Castle Douglas. On paper the 168-km stage should end in a bunch sprint, with a relatively flat run-in to the line. However race profiles and predictions are a messy affair at the Tour of Britain and the mid-stage cluster of category 3 climbs, coupled with unpredictable weather could rip the race apart. Martin Pedersen (2006) and Nick Nuyens (2005) won stages between Glasgow and Castle Douglas over similar terrain.
The race waves goodbye to Scotland on stage 2 with a 195km jaunt from Carlisle to Kendal, and has a route profile that should significantly alter the overall classification. There's barely a meter of flat road through the Lake District with two second category climbs after the races passes through Cockermouth - Whinlatter Pass and the Struggle – before finishing on Beast Banks. Gerald Ciolek won a similar stage in 2013 but from a vastly reduced peloton.
Cheshire plays host to stage 3 with a start in Congleton and finish in Tatton Park. Although the final 50 kilometres of the stage are downhill or flat, the stage groups together three impressive climbs with the Cat and Fiddle – the highest point in the race – the final test. Although this is a thoroughly demanding stage, the long flat stretch of kilometres after the final climb should see a re-grouping and a bunch sprint finish.
Stage 4 from Denbigh to Builth Wells is the longest of race (217km) and holds the most amount of climbing with 4,000m of ascents as the peloton winds into Wales. The profile suggests a break could make it to the finish with the sprinters' teams facing an incredibly demanding day if they are to control proceedings.
Stage 5 starts in Wales but returns into England with a finish in Bath. The climbs of Stowe Green, Speech House and Selsey Common pepper the middle portion before an uphill sprint finish.
The following day into Devon provides the true summit finish of the race with a climb to Haytor, where Simon Yates impressively took a stage of the race in 2013. The gaps between the GC contenders should be in seconds rather than minutes, but this will undoubtedly be a key stage in the battle for the yellow jersey.
The penultimate day's action sees a split stage with Bristol – home to Cyclingnews and ProCycling magazine – playing host. The day starts with a decisive 14.2km individual time trial, which takes in the spectacular Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Avon Gorge. Flat for the majority of the route the route also includes the 9 per cent Bridge Valley Road climb.
Stage 7b takes place in the afternoon, with the entire peloton racing what is essentially a 90-kilometre circuit race with six laps over a 15.1km route. Each lap includes the Bridge Valley Road ascent.
The final stage sees the race once again conclude in London with 100km of action around the English capital.
Riders to watch
Full line-ups have not yet been announced but defending champion Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) is not confirmed to ride. Wout Poels (Team Sky) has already been thrown his hat into the ring and along with Ben Swift and Ian Stannard Team Sky head into the race with ambitions of winning stages and contesting the overall.
Tom Dumoulin (Giant Alpecin) is also set to ride and with the individual time trial, will be a favourite to step onto the podium at least once during the race.
Taylor Phinney and Rohan Dennis will lead the line for a competitive BMC Racing, while Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel will duke it out in the bunch sprints.
Bradley Wiggins carries little pressure on his shoulders after securing a fifth Olympic Games gold medal but he has confirmed that he will be working for Scott Davis and Alex Knox when called upon. One can expect him to raise his game for the time trial too.
As far as the other domestic teams go, One Pro return to the race with last year's King of the mountains winner Peter Williams in their ranks and the team owned by former international cricketer Matt Prior will be aggressive throughout the week.
Madison Genesis also come to the race with ambitions of taking on the WorldTour teams and in Tom Stewart they have a rider who has already tasted success on home roads this season.
Full list of stages
Stage 1, Sunday, September 4: Glasgow to Castle Douglas 168km
Stage 2, Monday, September 5: Carlisle to Kendal 195km
Stage 3, Tuesday, September 6: Congleton to Tatton Park, Knutsford 182km
Stage 4, Wednesday, September 7: Denbigh to Builth Wells 217km
Stage 5, Thursday, September 8: Aberdare to Bath 205km
Stage 6, Friday, September 9: Sidmouth to Haytor, Dartmoor 150km
Stage 7a, Saturday, September 10: Bristol Stage Individual Time Trial 15km Stage 7b, Saturday, September 10: Bristol Stage Circuit Race 76.5km Stage 8, Sunday, September 11: London Stage presented by TfL 100km