The 2018 Tour of Britain will feature the modern race's first-ever team time trial in what organisers have called an 'innovative and unpredictable' route. The 14-kilometre test against the clock will finish with a tough rise up the Whinlatter Pass before the peloton tackles it from the other, tougher, side the following day in the race's sole summit finish.
Organisers unveiled the 1,140-kilometre route at a ceremony in London on Tuesday evening. The eight-day race, which takes place from September 2-9, will start in South Wales for the first time with the traditional London criterium closing out the week. The race turned to Cardiff for its 2017 finale. The event will not visit Scotland this year.
"This year we have worked hard to create an innovative and unpredictable route, with several surprises in store throughout the race," said race director Mick Bennett. "Several stages have stings in the tail; climbs positioned towards the finale of Stages 1, 2 and 3 will keep the outcome up in the air until the very end.
"Our partners at Cumbria County Council have helped us to achieve something that we have been keen to do for a number of years on Stage Five – a team time trial that finishes atop Whinlatter Pass. This will be a test like no other, as teams will have to get their equipment choices and tactics spot on. The race may not be won here, but some riders could certainly lose it."
The Tour of Britain is known for its unpredictability with heavy, undulating roads and six-man teams. Lars Boom won the race for the second time in 2017, beating defending champion, and only other double winner, Edvald Boasson Hagen by eight seconds. Boom's LottoNL-Jumbo squad is amongst the 14 teams that have already been confirmed for the race.
All 10 of the WorldTour teams that took part last year will be back for more, though some under a different name to 12 months ago. BMC Racing, Lotto Soudal, Mitchelton-Scott, Movistar Team, Quick-Step Floors, Dimension Data, EF Education First – Drapac, Team Katusha Alpecin, Team Sky, join LottoNL-Jumbo on the start line.
Pro Continental team Aqua Blue Sport will make their debut while Direct Energie return to the race for the first time since 2011. Wanty-Groupe Gobert have been named for the third year running with the British National squad the final confirmed name. The remaining teams will be announced on the week beginning July 16.
Stage 1 will set off from the picturesque backdrop of Pembrey Country Park and take on a very lumpy course to Newport. There will be three classified climbs along the way, including Belmont Hill less than 10 kilometres out, which averages nine per cent over its 800 metres, that could dispatch with some of the sprinters.
The race moves from Wales to South West England for the second and third stages. Day two brings the riders from Cranbrook to Barnstaple on yet more very rolling terrain. Stage 3 brings the race to Bristol for the third time since 2014 with an out and back route from the centre of town. The route heads south towards the Cheddar Gorge and out towards the area south of the neighbouring Bath before turning back towards Bristol. The finish will be the same as it was in the past two visits and takes the riders up the steep ramps towards the Clifton Downs, where Michal Kwiatkowski and Rohan Dennis have taken stage wins.
The peloton continues its journey north for stage 4 from Nuneaton to Royal Leamington Spa, taking on a lot of the same roads as the women's peloton will on stage 3 of the Ovo Energy Women's Tour next week. Once again, there are plenty of undulations to contend with on the 183-kilometre course.
The team time trial on stage 5 marks the beginning of three tough stages that will decide the overall winner. It is the first time since the race’s revival in 2004 that a team test against the clock has featured, replacing the usual individual chrono. It is just 14 kilometres but the long drag up to Whinlatter Pass in the second half of the route will force some big splits.
That will be just the first of three rides up the Cumbrian climb with the race returning to it for two more attempts the following day. The peloton will leave from Barrow-in-Furness and head up the eastern side this time out with its three kilometres averaging seven per cent. Hawkshead Hill and Fangs Brow make it four classified climbs.
The penultimate stage from West Bridgford to Mansfield is also the longest at a leg-sapping 223 kilometres. It is one of the flatter days but still contains a number of punchy riders before a lumpy finale that makes a sprint finish anything but a formality.
The final day takes the riders all the way back down to the south of England and a 14-lap circuit around the centre of London. There are bonus seconds available at the three intermediate sprints, which could prove crucial if the GC is close coming into the last stage.
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