Ah, the Tour of Britain. After a summer of sporting success stories that make us do that most un-British thing – be positive and happy about something – it’s good to get back to the dull palate that Tour of Britain provides us, as the peloton trudges under grey skies between the few places that wanted to put up the money to host the race. We’ve had a stage finish in a Safari Park that looked suspiciously like a car park, the annual Tour of Britain shambles of giving the jersey to the wrong person, and essentially, after the Vuelta, it all looks a bit, well British. That is to say, not very good.
It would be unfair to burden the organisers with much blame though – as much as cycling is finally starting to take off, the Tour of Britain still has a long way to go on the same scale. Whilst cities and towns across France, Italy and Spain bid furiously for the chance for the race to pass them by, in Britain, the same enthusiasm is lacking, the energy perhaps diminished by the uniquely British attitude to cyclists, mainly being that they are lower then humanity and should be destroyed when they’re on the road. Oh, by all means, go win stuff in France, but don’t expect to be treated as an equal on the roads! Anyway, rant over.
The problem the Tour of Britain has is that the ‘prestige’ cities simply don’t bid for the race, and in reality, certainly to the rest of the world, London is the only reason to come. I’ve always wondered if I see other countries cities through a rose tinted filter, but I could name at least 5 cities in each of the 3 main Grand Tour countries that I’d describe as prestigous or mythical, and that would look good on the route by the virtue of themselves (For the record- France: Paris, Nice, Perpignan, Biaritz, Tours, Spain: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, San Sebastian, Sevilla, Italy: Rome, Milan, Naples, Venice, Verona). Britain just doesn’t seem to have the same, at least in my mind, outside London and Edinburgh. As a result, we are blessed with the exciting sounding ‘Stoke on Trent stage’, which doesn’t exactly fire the imagination.
So I’ve come up with a more interesting route then the last few iterations, which have erred on the side of caution and gone for flat sprint stages and lumpy rolling drags rather then summit finishes, and punctuated these with obscene transfers oft longer then the total distance of the race. The race is now a true World Championships preperation race though, so it should be hard and long enough to reflect this. So I’ve taken care of the dull stages, added in some spice, and removed most of the transfers whilst also ensuring most places actually get near the race.
This Tour of Britain includes:
-Visits to five national parks
-Trips to 3/4 Capital cities
-Considerably less transfers then usual
-2 summit finishes
-9 days of racing (1 more then at the moment) with two full weekends of racing.
Prologue: London-London, 5.9miles
Of course, we have to start in London to get the riders to come, but we don’t want to dwell on it. So We’ll just have a nice prologue Time Trial, the only one of the race, to give everyone the chance to see the riders, starting off at City Hall and crossing Tower Bridge before blasting past Saint Pauls and powering down the Embankment toward Westminister before curling back towards the Mall and finishing outside Horse Guards Parade. Simple, pretty, and effective.
Stage 1: Olympic Stadium-Bristol, 165miles
‘But we didn’t see all of London?’ Luckily this stage will show off the rest of it, with a transit back from the Olympic Stadium (For the ‘Legacy’ and all that!) along the strand and out through Hyde Park. The race then cuts through Reading before turning north through Oxford and the University, before turning back to a run into Bristol. With some lumps in the finale an a uphill finish, the stage will be attritional given the length, and ends in style by crossing the Clifton Suspension Bridge before an uphill sprint to the line.
Stage 2: Cardiff-Swansea, 154miles
A hop over the Severn Bridge and the stage in Wales that starts in the capital and takes in the Brecon Beacons national park can begin, mainly by criss-crossing the park a couple of times, putting plenty climbing into the legs. The final climb comes 20 miles before the finish, but is long and steep, and will help spice up the finale by ensuring the pack really have to chase down the breakaway before the flat finish in Swansea.
Stage 3: Aberystwth-Chester, 110miles
More of a transfer stage and to give the sprinters something, this stage take in Wales’ other national park, Snowdonia, before a downhill sprint into Chester, if, that is, the riders can survive the ups and downs of the day, which will build up steadily as the day progresses.
Stage 4: Liverpool-Holme Moss, 116miles
Starting outside Liverpool and taking in its harbour before batting along the pan flat opening 60 miles through to Manchester, this stage has a cruel sting in the tail, taking the riders into the Peak District and up first Snake Pass, then the 9.3% Average Holme moss for what should be, by my reckoning, the first proper summit finish in the Tour of Britain’s history.
Stage 5: Sheffield-York, 99miles
Hopefully we can get the gorgeous Jess Ennis in on this one to wave them off, but then the riders go on a Tour of Yorkshire, taking in Leeds and Otely before heading into York, where, if I had my way, they would race 10 circuits of a short course in the city centre that takes in the Minister, the Shambles, and the old Shopping streets of this gem of a city.
Stage 6: Whitby-Newcastle upon Tyne, 98miles
This stage takes in yet another national park, the North Yorkshire Moors, and forces the riders to climb out of them before heading North (avoiding Middlesborough of course) towards Durham. Of course, being from the region, I’m biased towards the area, but a ride through Durham before descending into Newcastle, crossing the Tyne Bridge before mimicking my earlier idea of a finish on Grey Street, which I explored in an Alternative Tour de France Grand depart (https://sicycle.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/an-alternative-british-bid-for-the-tour-de-france-northumberlandnewcastle-upon-tyne/), should be spectacular and dramatic given the steep uphill finish. It would help if the weather held off, of course.
Stage 7: Alnwick-Edinburgh, 98miles
Alnwick gardens and castle, famed for being Hogwarts, will be the starting point of this easy stage before tomorrow destroys the race, with a coastal run towards the third capital city of the race, Edinburgh, where the race should boil down to a bunch sprint on Queen Street.
Stage 8: Carlisle-Wrynose Pass, 92miles
The final day of my Tour is designed to dramatically shake up the GC by journeying into the most beautiful and hardest terrain that Britain has to offer: The Lake District. If temperatures are low and the weather inclement, then it will be absolutely gripping, with a route that resembles a hilly classic, as the riders get a easier ride to Keswick before heading over Honister Pass to Buttermere, followed by hauling their tired bodies over Newlands, quickly followed by Whinlatter. Some lumpy valley riding follows to allow some recovery , before the double edged sting in the tail – the legendarily hard Hardknott Pass, with its 30% slopes and potential to cause riders to walk up its slopes followed by the culmination of 8 days riding on Wrynose Pass. Whoever wins here may win the entire Tour, but one thing’s certain – it should be dramatic.