The Tour of Britain Cycle Race
The Greatest Show in England and all FREE!

Cycle racing in England does not come any better than the Tour of Britain.

For a week in September the world's best racing cyclists battle it out on the roads of England, Scotland and Wales.

They race hundreds of miles at speeds of up to 40mph (that's 60 kph to the non-Brits) not counting the descents.

They're sent over wicked climbs and down narrow roads.

They have to deal with whatever the British weather chooses to throw at them. For professional bike racers there's no 'rain stops play'.

And if they want to win, they have to get to the line first, day after day.

Add to this the colour and spectacle that characterises a major bike race: the riders in their muli-coloured jerseys and they multitude of bikes, cars and buses making up the caravan.

Teamcar of Team Barloworld at the 2008 Tour of Britain

Add also police motorcycle relays that are awesome to watch, add villages hanging out the bunting to cheer the riders, add crowds of children and adults along the road side, add music and sponsors' teams handing out freebies.

Add all of these and you'll begin to understand why bike racing is so popular on the continent.

It's a spectacle. It's fun. It's great entertainment. But it's also free! A day out in England just cannot get any better than this!

So if you're in England in September and anywhere near the tour route, take an afternoon to join in the celebrations.

When and Where Can I See It?

Danilo di Luca at the 2008 Tour of Britain

The Tour of Britain takes place every year in September.

The 2008 Tour of Britain starts in London on Sunday, 7th September. It will visit 15 venues up and down the country and will end in Liverpool in Sunday, 14th September.

16 teams of six riders will compete for the honours, amongst them a Great Britain squad and international teams like CSC, Barloworld, LPR and Topsport Vlaanderen.

Amongst the top riders to take part in this year's Tour of Britain are:

  • Italian sprint ace Alessandro Petacchi

  • LPR's Danilo di Luca (pictured here), who is a definite contender for overall victory

  • Brits David Millar, Rob Hayles, Roger Hammond and Ian Stannard, who will do their utmost to win the honours in their home race

  • plus a sprinkling of fast Aussies, Belgians and Spaniards.

Between the first time trial along London's embankment and the last finish line in the city centre of Liverpool lie a number of challenges for the riders.

  1. Sunday, 7th September: On this circuit through Central London, the riders will have to ignore the famous sights and concentrate instead on speed. Sightseeing can be done later!

  2. Monday, 8th September: The race moves from Milton Keynes to Newbury in Berkshire with a couple of sharp climbs along the way.

  3. Tuesday, 9th September: The riders will have to do battle with the wicked hills that Somerset and North Devon have to offer, before they move on to a seaside finish at Burnham on Sea.

  4. Wednesday, 10th September: Historic Worcester provides the backdrop for the start of Stage 4. From here the riders move north to Stoke on Trent, a town with a long cycling pedigree.

  5. Thursday, 11th September: Next we roll out the spectacular landscape of the Yorkshire Dales to challenge the riders. The stage runs from Hull, across the Humber Bridge, to Dalby Forest, taking in twisty narrow roads and short steep climbs along the way.

  6. Friday, 12th September: Darlington will host the start of the next stage. On its first visit to the northeast England, the tour will cross some beautiful countryside on the way to the stage finish in Gateshead.

  7. Saturday, 13th September: The penultimate stage sees the tour in Scotland. From Glasgow, the riders will make their way across some tricky terrain in Dumfries and Galloway.

  8. Sunday, 14th September: England's northwest is the area where the Tour of Britain first began in 2004. From the party town of Blackpool the final stage of the race will wend its way to Liverpool to finish with an exciting hour-long city centre race!

You can find more about the route, the timetable, the teams and the riders on the Tour of Britain website.

And Where Did We Go?
...Pictures and Impressions from Stage 2

Plowman Craven Teambus

Like many other cycling fans, we try to get a look at Britain's biggest live sporting event at least once each year.

Last year we saw the race split all over the place by the tricky roads in Somerset. (Excellent for watching the kids enjoy the police motorbike relay!)

This year, we opted for Stage 2 in Berkshire - a little closer to home. We stopped for our first glimpse in the small village of Hermitage, just outside Newbury. The village was just a few miles up the road from the climb of Streatley Hill, so we were hoping for a nicely split bunch.

Ian Stannard leading the 2008 Tour of Britain through the Berkshire village of Hermitage

Most days Hermitage is probably a very quiet place, but not when the Tour of Britain is due. The bunting was up, timetables and routes were pasted up and people stood by the roadside, waiting for the riders. Some listened to the radio to tell others where the race was.

Fortunately, the weather was dry and the race was on time ...

The 2008 Tour of Britain passes the Berkshire village of Hermitage

Then the police relay started to come through, flashing lights and sirens designed to entertain the waiting crowds, especially the kids. Before you knew it, Ian Stannard breezed through Hermitage, press motorcycle in hot pursuit.

The race was only a minute or so behind, whizzing through the village like a long, coloured snake, followed by more police, cameras and the colourful melee of team cars with bikes on their roofs, buses and race commissaires. Even the broom wagon was not left out. The watching kids found it hilarious!

And while the riders contemplated a few more miles around Newbury and through Shefford Park, we hotfooted it into town to catch the finish. Everything was well-organised and the waiting crowds were having a whale of a time.

Finish of Stage 2 of the 2008 Tour of Britain

Trouble during the run-in to the finish had the bunch arriving in dribs and drabs. Good chance to see one of my erstwhile favourites, Oscar Sevilla, arrive at a rather leisurely pace and on his own.

And being able to wander around amongst the parked team cars and buses was a definite bonus of the Newbury finish. Usually, one doesn't get that close to Sevilla, di Luca or David Duffield.

Rock Racing's bikes

There were some nice-looking bikes amongst the many. And some with rather outrageous paint-jobs. Mind you, the Rock Racing team car is not shy about it, either.

All in all, a great day out with the 2008 Tour of Britain. I wonder where we'll be next year?