With its place on the calendar coming just before the World Championships in Limburg the 2012 Tour of Britain provides a perfect alternative to the Vuelta for riders fine tuning their form for the Worlds.
This year stars, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Ivan Basso are due to line up in Ipswich on Sunday for the opening stage which finishes 203km later at Norfolk showground. This stage is likely to suit the sprinters and Mark Cavendish would make a very popular winner in front of a home crowd. The first points sprint comes after only nine kilometres, so this year’s Tour will be off to a fast start right from the gun.
Three sprints and three sets of King of the Mountains points will make the stage anything but boring; but with some big sprinters and no major challenges on route we should see a bunch sprint into Norfolk. One note of caution - with the stage running alongside the coast, the peloton will have to be vigilant for echelons forming.
Stage two runs for 180.7km from Nottingham to Knowsley Safari Park. With lots of small climbs right from the start and three first category cat KOM's all inside the first 60km, this stage could be a jungle. After the final KOM the roads flatten but passing through small villages will mean the riders have to stay alert for a break creeping away.
After a long transfer, the third stage sees the race head over the Scottish Border and into Dumfries and Galloway. Jedburgh to Dumfries is a short stage at only 150km, and features undulating roads and stunning landscapes.
Stage four is another 150km stage but back on to the English side of the border. The stage starts in Carlisle and finishes in Blackpool, which has had a stage finish for the past few years. Each time has seen a big bunch sprint and I can see more of the same this time around.
After three stages for the strong men, the sprinters should get a chance for revenge in the eighth and final stage of this year’s Tour of Britain. The 147km from Reigate to Guildford on mostly flat road should give Mark Cavendish a chance to close the Tour of Britain in style. After the show London put on for the Olympics, expect big crowd to witness that bunch sprint into Guildford.
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