RACE PREVIEW TOUR OF BRITAIN
CYCLING WEEKLY|September 02, 2021
WITH A STELLAR LINE-UP AND A TOUGH ROUTE TO TACKLE, THIS YEAR’S RACE SHOULD PROVE TO BE A CLASSIC
Steve Puddicombe, James Shrubsall, Vern Pitt

108 NUMBER OF RIDERS

€117,140 TOTAL PRIZE FUND

3,482M CLIMBING ON THE HILLIEST STAGE, STAGE TWO

1,310KM TOTAL RACE DISTANCE

18,821M CLIMBING OVER THE COURSE OF THE RACE

STAGE 1

SUNDAY, 5 SEPTEMBER

PENZANCE >BODMIN 180.8KM

Not far from where travellers start the famous Land’s End to John o’ Groats challenge spanning the entire length of the nation, Penzance will host the beginning of the riders’ own long journey northwards through Britain this week. This is the Tour of Britain’s first visit to Cornwall, and it makes up for lost time by visiting many of the region’s most famous sights and seaside resorts, from St Ives in the west to Falmouth in the east to Newquay in the north.

Wind might have been a factor had the route stuck to the coastline, but instead it zigzags from coast to coast and remains mostly inland, safe from the autumnal coastal breezes. That means that, despite a rolling parcours, the bunch isn’t likely to be reduced much come the uphill finish at Bodmin. A gradient averaging 5% in the final kilometre is unlikely to instil as much fear in the riders as the mythical Beast of Bodmin Moor used to in locals a few decades ago, but it will be enough to favour the punchier finishers like Wout van Aert over pure sprinters like Mark Cavendish, even if the road does level out for the final few hundred metres.

Where to watch

The climbs of Zennor and Rosewall Hill are tackled within quick succession before the arrival into St Ives, and offer some great seaside views.

STAGE 2

MONDAY, 6 SEPTEMBER

SHERFORD >EXETER 1 83.9KM

A group of favourites featuring over 30 riders remained together the last time a Tour of Britain stage finished in Exeter, seven years ago, allowing Matthias Brändle to win from the breakaway and Michal Kwiatkowski to hold on to the overall lead, but that’s unlikely to be the case this time. There might not be a marquee climb, or even a single climb ranked higher than category two, but this is one of the toughest days of this year’s edition, and potentially a very important one in the GC race.

The reason for this is the amount of climbing – the total elevation gain of 3,482m is more than any other stage of the race. Most of that is done upon arrival into Dartmoor during the stage’s second half, where the category two climbs of Rundlestone and Warren House Inn are tackled back-to-back, the latter 36km from the finish. In the land that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, it will take some deductive reasoning from the riders to decide whether to attack early on these climbs, or keep their power dry for the descent and rolling run-in to the finish.

Where to watch

Though it’s too far from the finish to affect the race, you’ll be able to bask in the beautiful landscape of South Hams at the Strete climb.

STAGE 3

TUESDAY, 7 SEPTEMBER

LLANDEILO >NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDEN OF WALES TTT 18.2KM

In a race that mostly favours puncheurs and sprinters, this detour across the Welsh border into Carmarthenshire may throw a cat among the pigeons, posing a test drastically different from anything else on this year’s route. It’s a team time trial, meaning anyone hoping to win will have to rely directly on their team-mates to make sure they don’t lose significant time.

All sorts of things can go wrong, from setting off too fast and dropping, or putting into trouble weaker team-mates, to overcompensating by not going hard enough. It’s all about pacing and using riders where they’re best suited.

A relatively long distance of 18.2km means that WorldTour outfits like Jumbo-Visma (who were triumphant the only other occasion a TTT featured at the Tour of Britain, in 2018), DeceuninckQuick Step and Ineos Grenadiers ought to put well over a minute into the UK-based teams, which will be a little harsh on any emerging British talents hoping for a breakthrough GC finish. But WorldTour teams are at risk too – as happened in 2018, when Hugh Carthy was dumped out of GC contention by a poor ride from EF Education First.

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