The tenth edition of the modern Tour of Britain capped a decade of enormous growth in the popularity of the national cycle race in fine style.
Overall and stage victories for British riders provided a fitting end to a race which drew an estimated 1.5m spectators to the road side during its week-long run from Scotland to London.
With British victories on half of the stages, a world class field, and a host of ‘firsts’ for the Tour of Britain’s modern incarnation, including a classic 10-mile time trial and summit finish, race organisers and home riders can reflect with pride on a job well done.
Here are five observations on the 2013 Tour of Britain, illustrated with a superb gallery of images from photographer Roz Jones, which we bring you with her kind permission.
Wiggins returns to his best
Sir Bradley Wiggins returned to his very best at the Tour of Britain for the first time in a year. Showing all of the considerable class that characterised his golden 2012, one that brought a historic first British victory in the Tour de France, and an Olympic gold medal in the men’s time trial, Wiggo turned on the style for the thousands who lined the roads for every stage of the Tour of Britain.
The Londoner’s thoughts, and those of the army of supporters who cheered him on to the podium in his home city, will turn immediately to next week’s world time trial championships . HIs decisive margin victory in the 10-mile test last Tuesday (32 seconds over 10 miles) suggests Wiggins has timed his preparation to perfection. The rainbow jersey of world time trial champion in Florence would represent triumph in the face of a season that has teetered on the edge of disaster.
Cav the consistent
Chief among the many gifts of Mark Cavendish – the astonishing power to weight ratio, the aerodynamic advantage of his chin-on-the-stem sprint position, his ability to navigate the minefield of a bunch at full gas, with or without the assistance of a sprint train – lies an unquenchable desire for victory. This column has previously stated that no one wants to win as much as Cavendish, and he provided further evidence to support the assertion in this year’s Tour of Britain.
He displayed his vaunted ‘second kick’ to crushing advantage on stage seven to claim victory in Guildford, an effort that forced him to dig deep to win in London the following day, but did not prevent him from winning again. Cavendish expects nothing less – of himself, or his team-mates. While Wiggins’ season has finally assumed an upward trajectory, the Manx Missile has hit the target in every race he’s contested, making him the very model of victorious consistency.
Simon Yates is a young man in a hurry. Fearless of reputation, the 21-year-old had last offered home supporters a glimpse of his aggression and considerable talent in the RideLondon-Surrey Classic, when he went on the attack almost immediately after joining a late breakaway. Racing again at under-23 level in the Tour de l’Avenir, a hugely prestigious French stage race won previously by Greg LeMond, Miguel Indurain, and, more recently, by Nairo Quintana, the GB development squad member won two stages and finished tenth overall.
Yates chose arguably the hardest finish of the 2013 Tour of Britain, the first hill-top denouement to a stage of the modern race, to claim his biggest road victory to date in Haytor (Yates collected the world points title on the track in February), a significant step towards a position on the final podium in London.
With his brother Adam, and Owain Doull, winner of the Tour of Britain’s best young rider competition, in the GB development team, and “established” riders like 24-year-old Peter Kennaugh and Luke Rowe, 23, riding strongly in Team Sky’s Grand Tour squads, the next generation of British stars is already flourishing. Home success in the national tour looks unlikely to end with the careers of Wiggins and Cavendish.
Last year, Britain’s UCI Continental squads dispelled any notion that they had been invited to their home race simply to make up the numbers by winning each of the jersey categories. They came close to repeating the feat this year, with Kristian House (Rapha Condor Sharp) second in the King of the Mountains competition and IG-Sigma Sport’s Pete Williams conducting a heroic defence of his 2012 points title, riding in the breakaway on the final two stages with a week of racing in his legs.
While he ended the competition just three points adrift of eventual winner, Angel Madrozo, a rider with the top-tier Movistar squad, the Southport rider and his team-mates in red and black can take pride in a spirited title defence.
Next year, the Tour of Britain will be forced not only to follow its own successful tenth edition, but also the visit to these shores of cycling’s greatest race: the Tour de France. When the Grand Depart rolls out of Leeds on July 5, attention will be focused entirely on La Grande Boucle, and few will be thinking of Britain’s own national tour. The Tour of Britain’s organisers are likely to view Le Tour’s visit to these shores as a blessing, rather than a curse, however.
“Unprecedented” is a word used with justifiable frequency to describe cycling in a nation that in recent years has hosted a Grand Depart, dominated two Olympic Games, won the Tour de France (twice) and world road race championships, and seen its own national tour swell to previously unimaginable proportions. “Unprecedented”, however, is likely to be the right phrase to describe the response to next year’s Grand Depart, and if SweetSpot can capture the expected spirit, the Tour of Britain is likely to continue to ride the crest of a seemingly unstoppable wave of popularity for cycle sport in his country.