IAN Wilkinson hopes Team Raleigh’s strong early-season form can help them claim overall victory in the two-day Tour of the Reservoir which takes place this weekend.

Barnoldswick’s Wilkinson is a new recruit with the team for 2014 having joined from the now defunct Team UK Youth and has himself impressed in the opening phase of the season.

He enjoyed a strong ride in the Tour de Normandie late last month and a victory at the Eddie Soens Memorial Race earlier this year.

Wilkinson will be riding in support of defending champion Evan Oliphant this weekend but admits he will still chance his arm at a stage victory should it arise.

“I might have a dig,” he said. “We will be riding for Evan and the most important thing is that Raleigh get the victory come Sunday night.

“It is an incredibly strong field, probably the strongest it has ever been. The stronger the field the more it brings out the best in you so it is great to see a high quality field.

“There are a number of teams who can feature. We haven’t seen much of Madison Genesis or NFTO yet and Rapha Condor are always strong.

“It will come down to the big teams I am sure but there will be a few riders keen to show themselves.

“It’s the first big UK race of the year and everyone will want to do really well in it.”

And Wilkinson is under no illusions how tough a test the Tour will be, having riden it last year for Team UK Youth and finished second in the 2010 edition.

He added: “It is exactly the same route as last year so everyone will know what to expect.

“It is a tough first stage with a lot of climbing and that will sort the general classification out. There is no easy beginning as it is straight up a big climb so it will be a hard race with a lot of teams fighting for position. The second day is a tough circuit as well so it will be a strong man who wins it.

“Hopefully we can be right up there.”

Colne’s Steven Burke will also be among the starters for his Haribo Beacon side as he makes his UK road debut for the team.

Burnley ace Simon Wilson is also in the field riding for Kendal based Wheelbase Altura MGD.

There will also be a women’s race at the event this year with Padiham’s Rebecca Rimmington among the starters for Merlin Cycles.

Helen Wyman, Emma Trott and Laura Massey are among the headline names for that one-day race which takes place on Saturday.