THE Aviva Tour of Britain is British Cycling's premier road cycling event, the UK's biggest professional bicycle race and largest annual free-to-spectate live sporting event.

With a history dating back to the end of the Second World War under various names and guises, the modern iteration of the Tour of Britain returned to the calendar in 2004, after a five-year absence.


The Tour of Britain has its origins in a dispute between cyclists during the Second World War.

The British administrative body, the National Cyclists' Union (NCU), had feared since the 19th Century that massed racing on the roads would endanger all racing.

A race organised from Llangollen to Wolverhampton on June7, 1942, in defiance of the NCU, led to its organisers and riders being banned.

They formed a new body, the British League of Racing Cyclists (BLRC), which wanted not only massed racing but a British version of the Tour de France.

The first multi-day stage race in Britain was the Southern Grand Prix in Kent in August 1944.

 The experience encouraged the BLRC to run a bigger race, the Victory Cycling Marathon, to celebrate the end of the war in 1945.

It ran from Brighton to Glasgow in five stages and was won by Robert Batot of France, with Frenchmen taking six of the top 10 places, the mountains competition and best team.

The 1950 race was sponsored by Sporting Record followed by the Daily Express in 1951.

Sponsorship was taken up by the makers of Quaker Oats in 1954, and then in 1958 by the Milk Marketing Board.

The professional Kellogg's Tour of Britain ran for eight editions from 1987 to 1994.

This tour, particularly in its early years, was characterised by very long hilly stages.

The Prudential plc-sponsored PruTour (1998–1999) ran twice.

Concerns about safety during the races contributed to both events' demise through the withdrawal of sponsorship; in the case of the Kellogg's Tour this followed a member of the public driving head-on into the peloton in the Lake District, and in the case of the PruTour a police motorcyclist being killed in a collision with a motorist near Worcester.

After a five-year hiatus, the Tour of Britain returned in 2004.

It began as a five-stage race before increasing to an eight-stage race in 2008.

Like the preceding PruTour, it is a professional men's race, attracting UCI World Tour teams, although it has also attracted semi-professional teams and the amateur Great Britain national team.