Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) will race in next week’s Tour of Britain against a stellar field that includes the winners of 100 Grand Tour stages.
The former world road race champion, winner of seven stages of the Tour of Britain, will roll out in Peebles next Sunday in the red, white and blue stripes of national champion.
And the Manx Missile will be just one of a host of stars from cycling’s elite UCI WorldTour contesting the tenth edition of the modern edition of the Tour of Britain.
Race director, Mick Bennett, whose Sweetspot organisation has turned Britain’s defunct national tour into a world class event, said the race improved each year.
“We have world-class sprinters like Mark Cavendish and Gerald Ciolek, the very best time trialists in Sir Bradley Wiggins and Alex Dowsett, and exceptional climbing talents in Nairo Quintana and Dan Martin, plus many others who I could mention,” he said.
Wiggins, winner of the 2012 Tour de France, will lead Team Sky as he makes his final preparations for the world time trial championships in Florence, Italy at the end of the month.
Colombian climbing sensation, Quintana (Movistar), winner of stage 20 of the hundredth Tour, when he saw off the challenge of Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Joaquim Rodriguez in a dogfight to the summit of the Col du Semnoz, will compete on British roads for the first time.
Quintana will be far from the only climbing specialist on the start list. Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), winner of the hugely prestigious Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic, and the Volta a Catalunya, as well as stage seven of the Tour de France, will seek to get his season back on track after crashing out of the Vuelta a Espana.
And Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF Inox), king of the mountains at this year’s Giro d’Italia, and Movistar’s Giovanni Visconti, who won the 15th and 17th stages of the corsa rosa, will bring a climbing threat of their own.
Visconti’s Movistar team-mate, Alex Dowsett, the three-time and reigning British time trial champion, and another Giro d’Italia stage winner, will want to have his say on the stage three time trial: a classic 10-mile test in Knowsley.
Cavendish will face a challenge to his supremacy on The Mall from Milan-San Remo winner, Gerald Ciolek (MTN- Qhubeka), but will have the backing of Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mate and sprint legend, Alessandro Petacchi, who, like Cavendish and Ciolek, is a Milan-San Remo winner.
Six British teams will feature among the line-up, with IG-Sigma Sport’s Pete Williams and Kristian House (Rapha Condor JLT) defending the points and king of the mountains jerseys won in last year’s race.
Tour of Korea winner, Mike Cuming (Rapha Condor JLT) and Ian Bibby (Madison-Genesis), will lead the challenge of the domestic teams on the rolling stages, while Team Raleigh’s IG Nocturne winner, Tom Scully, Bibby’s veteran team-mate, Dean Downing, rejuvenated since joining Madison-Genesis at the start of the season, and all six members of the Tour Series-winning UK Youth squad, will seek to be in the mix on the sprint stages.
This year’s eight-stage edition will take in the brutal climb of Honister Pass on the 225km second stage from Carlisle to Kendal, two ascents of Caerphilly Mountain, and the gruelling climb into Haytor on the sixth stage in Devon.
Stage seven will take the riders through the Surrey Hills, before the showpiece finish the following day on The Mall. The route, unveiled in March, has been described by organisers as “the most challenging yet”.
Will Mark Cavendish be in your RoadCyclingUK Fantasy Tour of Britain team? Pick your star six-rider line-up at rcuktourofbritain.fantasyleague.com.