The start cavalcade – (c) Chris Keller-Jackson
The Tour of Britain 2004 kicked off with a spectacular cavalcade of domestic and international cycling stars including Andreas Klöden, José Azevedo, Axel Mercxx and Gold, Silver and Bronze Medallist – Bradley Wiggins. After a 5 year absence, Britain finally has a truly world class tour to shout about.
In a 5-hour loop stating at Sportcity, adjacent to the Manchester Velodrome, the 95 riders sped off towards Blackpool then back to Manchester city centre for a classic bunch sprint finish.
Crowd levels at the start were disappointingly small though out on the course there were cheering bystanders along the way and crowds on the climbs at Ramsbottom and Rivington. The finish areas was busy all day with the Onza Trials team and organised children’s races providing entertainment before the caravan returned.
There was a good breakaway that emerged, led by the eventual Polka Dot jersey winner, Duncan Urquhart, though he finished over 10 minutes behind the pack. With stage 2’s hills all coming in the last quarter of the race, he is unlikely to retain this lead.
The eventual winner of the Yellow Jersey (and the points Green jersey) was Quick Steps Stefano Zanini from the Green jersey wearer Kevin Van Impe. All the main players came in with the bunch, Wiggins in 74th to a large and vocal crowd.
The Leeds start (from a very central location) was tightly packed with spectators and for a second day we had glorious sunshine to send them off with. There are so many riders right at the front of the general classification that anything could happen. The middle to end of this stage is in Bradley Wiggins’s back yard so we may see him put a bit of a show on.
This is the Tour of Britain, in September and the sun is shining. Anything could happen!