Every year the re-invigorated Tour of Britain (September 7-14) gets bigger and attracts a more high profile list of international riders.

Perhaps buoyed by the success of British cycling this year – with dominance of the Olympic Games cycling events and Mark Cavendish’s four Tour de France wins – Britain is very quickly establishing itself as a cycling nation proper. Home interest in the sport has risen dramatically since the Tour de France visited last year.

And the Tour of Britain is the event that gives us Brits the chance to show that we can put on an international class race as well as produce international class riders – perhaps a chance to show that the Tour de France’s successful visit to London in 2007 was no fluke.

Below we present a guide to the 2008 race. We’ll be covering the tour in full here on www.cyclingweekly.co.uk and in Cycling Weekly magazine, with stage reports, exclusive photos, analysis, interviews and much more.


TOUR OF BRITAIN 2008: PREVIEW
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Stages>>
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Previous winners>>
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STAGES
This year there are a total of eight stages – one more than last year – starting with a circuit of central London on Sunday September 7, then travelling west to Somerset via Milton Keynes and then north to Scotland and back down to England again to end in Liverpool on Sunday, September 14.

Last year’s opening prologue time trial has been ditched in favour the London circuit race. This gives the riders a chance to warm up before the first road stage on Monday and gives the fans a chance to see the riders in a spectator-friendly environment.

The stages are spread out all over the country, which means that eight separate areas of Britain are visited but also means that the spectre of over-long transfers between each stage remains for the teams.

Tour of Britain 2008 route mapwww.tourofbritain.co.uk.

Click on the stage maps to enlarge

Stage 1 Sunday 7 September, London Circuit
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Stage 2 Monday 8 September, Milton Keynes to Newbury
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Stage 3 Tuesday 9 September, Chard to Burnham-on-Sea
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Stage 4 Wednesday 10 September, Worcester to Stoke-on-Trent
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Stage 5 Thursday 11 September, Hull to Dalby Forest
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Stage 6 Friday 12 September, Darlington to Newcastle Gateshead
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Stage 7 Saturday 13 September, Glasgow Green to Drumlanrig Castle
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Stage 8 Sunday 14 September, Blackpool to Liverpool
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TEAMS
Agritubel
An Post ? M.Donnelly ? Grant Thornton ? Sean Kelly Cycling Team
Barloworld
Great Britain
LPR Brakes ? Ballan
MTN Energade
Palmeiras Resort – Tavira
Pinarello ? Canditv
Plowman Craven Cycling Team
Rapha ? Condor ? Recycling.co.uk
Rock Racing
SouthAustralia.com – AIS
Team CSC ? Saxo Bank
Team Columbia
Team Garmin ? Chipotle presented by H30
Topsport Vlaanderen
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RIDERS
This year’s Tour of Britain start list features some very big – and some very controversial – names.

Defending champion Romain Feillu (Agritubel) wears the number one plate, and he’ll have a tough job on his hands to repeat last year’s win with several squads entering very strong teams.

imageRomain Feillu: Tour of Britain 2007 winner

After dominating the Tour of Ireland with four stage wins and the overall victory, Team Columbia are lead by Kim Kirchen backed up by a squad that includes Roger Hammond and Bradley Wiggins. Mark Cavendish will not be riding, instead he is part of Columbia’s line-up at the Tour of Missouri.

Garmin-Chipotle bring in the big guns too, with David Millar, Magnus Backstedt, Julian Dean and Dan Martin included in a powerful line-up that is bound to make an impression on the race.

ProTour stars CSC-Saxo Bank have included Stuart O’Grady and Bradley McGee, again these first class riders are backed up by a very strong squad.

Also in attendance are Rock Racing, unashamedly cycling’s bad boys – Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botero will all be on the start line in Westminster. As too will Alessandro Petacchi and Danilo Di Luca, who ride for LPR Brakes. All of these riders have hit the headlines for involvement in doping or doping investigations and their presence at the event will undoubtedly create mixed feelings for race fans.
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PREVIOUS WINNERS
2007: Romain Feillu (France)
2006: Martin Pedersen (Denmark)
2005: Nick Nuyens (Belgium)
2004: Mauricio Ardila (Colombia)
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HOW TO WATCH THE RACE
To make it as easy as possible for fans to come along in person and watch the race, the organisers have made a comprehensive race manual available to download via the event’s official website.

If you can’t get along to watch the race, then you can catch a highlights programme on digital television channel ITV4 after every stage from 8pm to 9pm.
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TOUR OF BRITAIN 2008 LINKS

NEWS
No Cavendish at Tour of Britain
Tour of Britain on TV

TOUR OF BRITAIN GUIDE
Tour of Britain 2008 preview>>
Start list>>

EXTERNAL LINK
Tour of Britain official website: www.tourofbritain.co.uk.