From Sky Sports:
Tour of Britain organisers hope a summer of success for British cycling continues into the autumn after announcing a route which should see the tussle for victory go to the wire.
With Team Sky riders Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish seeking Tour de France success in July and Olympic success immediately afterwards, Britain’s prospects on two wheels in 2012 are better than ever.
And the longest Tour of Britain yet at 1,349.9 kilometres, which begins on September 9 in Ipswich and ends a week later, could make it an Indian summer, with a battle for podium places until the finish in Guildford.
Race director Mick Bennett said: “We’ve got a race of two halves.
“The initial first four stages are designed for the sprinter, rouleur-types, rather than the climbers.
“Then the race gradually builds – from Stoke-on-Trent, through Wales, Devon, all the way to the final day in Guildford – in severity.
“People may think the Devon stage is going to the decider, but we’ve gone right down to the wire this time with a stage in the Surrey Hills to Guildford.
“It’s not for the faint-hearted, you’d be a fool if you threw everything at the Welsh and the Devon stage and wasted yourself prior to Guildford.
“The final climb of the whole race comes with about 25km to go, White Down. It’s dreadful. It really is a horrible climb.
“If you’re in yellow you’re going to need to really defend vigorously on the final stage – it certainly won’t be an exhibition stage.”
World in motion
Cavendish could compete for the final time as the 2011 world champion and parade his rainbow jersey around the country in a race which can provide key preparation for the 2012 World Championships in Limburg, Holland the following week.
Asked about Cavendish’s participation, Bennett said: “I think it would be highly probable, but there’s never a guarantee.”
For the first time since 2008, when the race finished in Liverpool as part of the city’s European capital of culture celebrations, the event will end outside of London on a cobbled finish in Guildford.
The final Surrey stage is different to the route for the Olympic road race which Cavendish is hoping to win on July 28.
There are challenges hosting a true Tour of Britain, featuring all regions of the country, while last year, for the first time, Hurricane-force winds forced the cancellation of a stage, leaving Bennett to become something of a meteorologist in the lead-up to this year’s race.
In a packed calendar, the race has had to battle to retain a desirable date in the calendar, too.
As well as Cavendish and Wiggins, who took part in the event in 2010, there could be an opportunity to see some of Britain’s track stars, who are vying for Olympic glory in August.
Team pursuit squad members Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh (both Team Sky), Ed Clancy, Andy Tennant (both Rapha Condor Sharp) and Steven Burke (Team IG-Sigma Sport) could all participate in the Tour, if selected by their teams.
Bennett, a team pursuit bronze medallist at the 1972 and 1976 Games, is amazed by the prospect of Britain clocking three minutes 50 seconds over 4km in London.
“It would be astonishing for them to do that and I’d dearly love to see it,” he said.
This year’s stages:
Stage One - Sunday, September 9 Ipswich to Norfolk Showground (199.6km)
A flat stage and a finish for the sprinters after a scenic dash through East Anglia.
Stage Two - Monday, September 10 Nottingham to Knowsley (177.8km)
The peloton pass over the Peak District but there is plenty of time to regroup before the line in front of the animal enclosures at Knowsley Safari Park.
Stage Three - Tuesday, September 11 Jedburgh to Dumfries (161.4km)
A rolling stage finishes with three loops of Dumfries. Mark Cavendish won the Borders stage in 2011 and a sprint is probable once again.
Stage Four - Wednesday, September 12 Carlisle to Blackpool (156km)
Hurricane-force winds led to the cancellation of a similar stage in 2011. There is the climb of Shap Fell before the finish beneath Blackpool Tower.
Stage Five - Thursday, September 13 Stoke-on-Trent to Stoke-on-Trent (146.9km)
Starts at Trentham Gardens and features 2,000m of climbing across the Staffordshire Moorlands and Gun Hill before a city centre finish.
Stage Six - Friday, September 14 Welshpool to Caerphilly (189.8km)
Through the heart of Wales from Powis Castle to Caerphilly Castle and over the Brecon Beacons. There will be two climbs of Caerphilly Mountain.
Stage Seven - Saturday, September 15 Barnstaple to Dartmouth (170.7km)
A coast-to-coast ride across Dartmoor will challenge all the riders without a flat section in sight.
Stage Eight - Sunday, September 16 Reigate to Guildford (147.7km)
The finale through the Surrey Hills, including Leith Hill and Staple Hill with a cobbled drag uphill to the finish, will ensure the race goes down to the wire.