The 2012 road season is heading for its close and with it comes the Tour of Britain, you will struggle to miss it this year too after all the publicity from the Tour de France and Olympics the Tour of Britain is set to be a big success this year. The streets, towns and fields will be awash with fans new and old drawn to the event by big names and unrivalled access. Now with cycling’s new fame and popularity you won’t even be able to hide from it putting your head in a newspaper, the media will be full of updates from the race as everyone looks for a British winner come the final dash up through Guildford.
Personally I’ve been lucky enough to ride the Tour of Britain three times in my time as a professional rider in the UK. As a young kid I used to stand on the slopes of Holme Moss just outside of Huddersfield and watch in awe as the riders passed by on their way over to a finish in Sheffield, I never dare dreamt of riding in the race then, to have three finishes on my CV seems a bit crazy looking back. Each time was a different experience, some positive some not so positive but overall I’ve enjoyed all three and am proud to have ridden the race.
The highlight for me was spending a day out front in a two man break on stage 7 of the 2010 edition, to spend a whole day out front in front of the British crowd, clocking up the king of the mountains prizes was pretty special. It was a massive day not just for me but it was the first participation in the Tour of Britain for my team (Team Sigmasport) and everyone involved in Sigmasport as a company too. When the stage finished it had been a defining point of both my career and that of everyone involved in the team from staff to sponsors, it was a great feeling to be part of that. Since then plenty has happened and this season in particular has seen some ups and downs, but to always have that day in the Tour of Britain to my name is a pretty good feeling.
The 2012 edition will see others riders clock up their day in the limelight, maybe define their careers or maybe their step onto a bigger stage. For some riders it may be the biggest event they ever compete in, for others it may be a relatively small week out, but that’s part of the races beauty, riders of different experience and reputation mix and become equal for one week. The guys that define their careers may not be the ones at the top of the result sheets at the race finish. They might not be your Olympic hero’s or World Tour stars, everyone has the chance to write some headlines, I didn’t think I’d be grabbing any in 2010! This Tour of Britain as ever looks even more difficult than the year before; the organisers seem to have a good talent for hunting out some of the most challenging terrain out there. Having raced up Caerphilly Mountain once in the 2011 race, heading over twice will really test those at the business end of the race and could really cause some race defining splits; it will certainly be a day that the classification hopefuls will have to be aware. The stage in and around Stoke always provides a hard days racing, with not just climbs but often exposed sections over the top of the climbs to contend with and heading through the challenging countryside around Dumfries could possibly see the race split to pieces. If the weather of the past few years in this area pays a visit again it could be the hardest day of the race.
Possibly alongside Caerphilly Mountain the defining stage for the Overall Classification though is most likely to be stage 7 over Dartmoor. The area is defined by short but incredibly steep climbs, from my own past experience; although the stage in this area has not yet defined the classification it has the potential to do so. Previous years have always allowed groups to reform before the finish after lengthy changes, maybe this year that won’t be the case.
Whatever happens in the 2012 edition though, the Tour of Britain is already guaranteed to be a success. The next generation of riders will be standing on a hillside somewhere watching the race come by much like I did. Maybe they will form part of the Tour’s peloton a few years down the line, maybe even write themselves some headlines along the way.
Keep an eye out on Cycling Shorts for more on the 2012 Tour of Britain.