THE Tour of Britain organisers have designed a route for September’s race to tempt East Lancashire’s Sir Bradley Wiggins to defend his title.
The Grand Depart takes place in Liverpool, not far from 2012 Tour de France champion Wiggins’ Lancashire home, and the final day of the eight-day stage race concludes with a split stage in his home town of London, including a time-trial at which he excels.
The 33-year-old, who lives near Chorley, won the Tour of Britain in 2013, but has spoken of riding the Vuelta a Espana in 2014 as preparation for the Road World Championships later in September, where the time-trial is his main target.
Whether Team Sky’s Wiggins commits or not remains to be seen, but it is sure to be a compelling edition of the national tour once again from September 7 to 14.
East Lancashire does not feature in the route for this year’s event with the opening stage a sprinters’ one in Liverpool.
Stage two finishes on Llandudno sea front and stage three could prove decisive in the overall race.
The hilly 150-kilometre mid-Wales route from Newtown finishes atop The Tumble, above Abergavenny, which is also the central location for June’s British Championships.
The 6km climb has an average gradient of 7.2 per cent, so is sure to test even the world’s best climbers.
Stage four from Worcester to Bristol features a 1km climb in the finale, before an undulating Devon stage where a breakaway could prevail.
The peloton will traverse Dartmoor and climb Haytor mid-stage before finishing in the centre of Exeter, where people swarmed to watch an intermediate sprint in 2013.
Stage six is the longest of the 2014 race and testing, with the serene surrounds of Victoria Park in Bath in contrast to what lies on the road for the riders as they tackle Salisbury Plain and the Chilterns before a lumpy conclusion in and around Chinnor and Princes Risborough.
The seventh stage sees the race visit Brighton, 20 years on from the city’s hosting of the Tour de France.
The eighth stage will be split, with a time-trial in the morning over 8.8km.
After a break featuring a women’s GP criterium, the Tour of Britain will conclude with a final stage 10-lap circuit race around central London. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won the final stage in 2013.
Wiggins is not the only one debating whether to choose to ride the Tour of Britain over the Vuelta.
The UCI’s decision to upgrade the race’s status means there will be the largest contingent of ProTour teams in the race, which features 18 teams of six riders.
Barnoldswick’s Ian Wilkinson, who rode the event last year in the colours of Team UK Youth, could line up again for his new squad Raleigh but the final line-up of teams will not be confirmed until the summer.
Steven Burke’s Haribo Beacon squad is unlikely to be given a slot in the race meaning the Colne rider will miss out.