Star-studded field lines up for the Tour of Britain – Preview

With no Lars Boom, the 2018 OVO Energy Tour of Britain is without its defending champion. However, the Dutchman's LottoNL-Jumbo team are bringing none other than Primož Roglic – the Slovenian star who took a solo stage win in the Pyrenees and fourth place overall at this year's Tour de France.

And it gets even better than that, with 2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas and four-time Tour winner Chris Froome lining up for Team Sky at the race.

Add to the mix sprinters André Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Fernando Gaviria, plus the latter's Quick-Step Floors teammate and the winner of two stages and the polka-dot jersey as best climber at this year's Tour de France, Julian Alaphilippe, and it quickly becomes apparent that the Tour of Britain organisers are doing nothing short of spoiling roadside – and armchair – fans at this year's race.

On the racing front, the uphill team time trial on stage 5 brings something new to the table, while the climbers are catered for with a double ascent of the same climb used for the TTT – albeit from the other side of Whinlatter Pass – the next day. With sprinting opportunities aplenty, and the big finish in London, it all adds up to suggest that this year's eight-day race could be one of the best yet.

The contenders

While former junior ski jump world champion Roglic will assume leadership duties at LottoNL-Jumbo in Boom's absence, Quick-Step come primed with options, fielding Alaphilippe, Bob Jungels and Maximiliano Schachmann as potential overall winners.

BMC Racing bring former Tour of California winner Tejay van Garderen, who'll take part in his first Tour of Britain and may well challenge for the title, while Katusha-Alpecin boast four-time time trial world champion Tony Martin and five-time British time trial champion Alex Dowsett, as well as recent Deutschland Tour stage winner Nils Politt.

On the home front, Team Wiggins' rising star Tom Pidcock could prove dangerous to the more experienced WorldTour teams, while Madison Genesis have British road race champion Connor Swift in their ranks.

The Yorkshireman will hope to again mix it with the best, having recently returned home from a stagiaire stint with Dimension Data, during which time he rode the Arctic Tour of Norway for the African squad and more than held his own.

Dimension Data arrive without fan-favourite Mark Cavendish, who's out of action while he recovers from mononucleosis. However, fans will be happy to see two-time Tour of Britain stage winner Mark Renshaw, who normally performs lead-out duties for the British sprinter. In Cavendish's absence, the Australian may get the chance to add more stage wins to his palmarès.

And then there's Team Sky, whose decision to bring both Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome will thrill the big crowds, but will also have everyone asking which of their two Tour de France winners they'll push for the Tour of Britain title.

While the world watches, could it in fact be Wout Poels – who finished second at the 2015 Tour of Britain – that they'll both be working for? Thomas has hinted as much, saying of his Dutch teammate in the build-up that "Wout is looking really good at the moment".

As always in such matters, the road will decide, as anyone involved in pro cycling gives as their stock answer these days.

And indeed it will, with the road at the Tour of Britain this year taking the riders from Pembrey Country Park in South Wales to the capital city of London, via eight stages that take in Devon, the Midlands and the Lake District.

The route

The 2018 Tour of Britain offers a varied parcours, with something for everyone, including uphill time triallists, although on the downside Scotland misses out on a stage entirely this year.

While the modern-era Tour of Britain has grown from its five stages in 2004 to become the eight-stage race it is today, a true Tour of Britain would need at least two weeks' worth of racing, and perhaps even three. And until that happens, eight stages will have to sate the public's thirst for top-level stage racing on British shores. And Scotland will be back.

After the riders are waved off from Pembrey Country Park on Sunday, the undulating opening stage could see a breakaway hold its advantage all the way to the finish in Newport if the peloton fails to keep things in check.

Stage 2 from Cranbrook to Barnstaple should see the sprinters duke it out for the win, although it's by no means a flat day, and they'll have their work cut out on stage 3, based on an out-and-back circuit around Bristol that includes the climb of Cheddar Gorge and ends with an uphill finish in the city.

Wednesday should satisfy the sprinters again, with a fast finish expected in Royal Leamington Spa for the finish of stage 4, while the next day's 14km team time trial for stage 5 from Cockermouth to the uphill finish on Whinlatter Pass should see the first really significant time gaps opening up.

If no significant dents have been made by that point, then stage 6 will surely do the trick. It's all about Whinlatter Pass again, and this time the race goes up it twice from the shorter, but much sharper, eastern side.

Then it's a 215.6km run between West Bridgford and Mansfield for stage 7 – this year's longest stage, on which the final classification could still be decided – followed by 'the London stage' for a final flurry for the sprinters.

Like the final fast laps of the Champs-Elysées in Paris for the last stage of the Tour de France, the Tour of Britain stage in London will be anything but processional.

True, the final classification may have been decided by this point, and a worthy winner found, but the opportunity to win a stage in one of the world's greatest cities will not be one any of the sprinters will be willing to pass up.

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