The route for the 2017 Tour of Britain has been announced, with organisers putting the focus on the sprinters and rouleurs. After searching out tougher summit finishes over the past four years, the race steers away from them altogether this season. Instead, the route is much more undulating and will feature several circuit finishes to allow spectators to see the riders more than once.
"We introduced summit finishes for the first time in 2013, this year we are giving a chance to the sprinters and rouleurs in the OVO Energy Tour of Britain," said race director Mick Bennett. "Following the success of the Tatton Park finish last year we have introduced several finishing circuits, this will add a new dimension for both the sprinter's teams, who will get to see the finish beforehand, and the fans as a whole who will enjoy the spectacle of the race twice."
Most of the stages will be shorter than their counterparts from last year, but with no final-day time trial, the race's total length is set to be 15km longer at 1,310km.
The race will begin in Edinburgh for the first time and ventures away from its traditional split-stage finish in London, opting for a 180km open stage into the centre of Cardiff. This year's race will be the first under the new title sponsor Ovo Energy, which recently penned a deal with the Tour of Britain and the Women's Tour.
Stage 1 sets out from the Scottish capital on Sunday, September 3, and travels along the coast before turning south towards the finish in Kelso, passing through the finish line before taking in a loop of the area and back to the finish. Both cities featured in the 2015 Tour of Britain, with Elia Viviani taking victory at Floors Castle in Kelso.
The race will cross the border into England for stage 2 as the riders head from Kielder Water and Forrest Park in Northumberland to the finish in Blythe. Blyth is another town that featured in the 2015 race, and it was Fernando Gaviria who came up trumps on that occasion while he rode as a trainee for the Etixx-QuickStep squad. With a relatively flat finish, it's likely to be another bunch gallop. At 211km, it will be the longest stage of the race.
Stage 3 sees one of the biggest transfers of the week as the race moves from the North East down to the 300-acre Normanby Hall Country Park, almost 150 miles south. From there, the riders will take a meandering route around North Lincolnshire before the finish in Scunthorpe, which should be another day for the sprinters. It is the first time that the region has held an entire stage and the first time since 2009 that the race has visited the area.
Mansfield to the southwest of Scunthorpe will play host to the start of stage 4 with Newark-on-Trent featuring as a finish town for the first time. It's a fairly undulating day out and the slight rise to the finish could be an opportunity for the non-sprinters in the bunch to have a chance.
Stage 5 will be a standalone time trial, a departure from recent years where it has been part of a split stage. It is a pan-flat power course around Tendring with a few technical sections that could catch people out. At 16km, it is one of the longest time trials featured in the race and will be an opportunity for the specialists to lay down a big marker in the overall classification.
The race moves a bit further north for stage 6 between Newmarket and Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. The 183km route has just 1,228 metres of ascending and is yet another chance for the sprinters to duke it out.
The final weekend of the 2017 Tour of Britain brings the riders across England and into Wales for the grand finale. Stage 7 from Hemel Hempsted – a former finish town where Mathias Brändle won in 2014 – to Cheltenham is the toughest of the week with 2,370 metres of climbing over 186km. There is constant ascending and descending throughout but the majority of it is packed into the final kilometres and it could be a chance for the rouleurs to break up the peloton.
The last stage takes riders from Worcester to Cardiff and contains 2,042 metres of ascent. Most of the climbing is in the middle of the 180km course, with a flat run to the line. A sprint finish looks likely but if things are close in the overall classification, it is possible that one of the GC contenders will try something different.
Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data) won the 2016 edition of the Tour of Britain, beating Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) by 26 seconds.
2017 Tour of Britain
Stage 1: Sunday 3 September – Edinburgh to Kelso, 188km
Stage 2: Monday 4 September – Kielder Water & Forest Park to Blyth, 211km
Stage 3: Tuesday 5 September – Normanby Hall Country Park to Scunthorpe, 172km
Stage 4: Wednesday 6 September – Mansfield to Newark-on-Trent, 175km
Stage 5: Thursday 7 September – The Tendring Stage Individual Time Trial, 16km
Stage 6: Friday 8 September – Newmarket to Aldeburgh, 183km
Stage 7: Saturday 9 September – Hemel Hempstead to Cheltenham, 186km
Stage 8: Sunday 10 September – Worcester to Cardiff, 180km