We pick out the main contenders for this year's Tour of Britain

The 2014 Tour of Britain kicks off in Liverpool on Sunday, September 7. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) goes into the race as defending champion and overall favourite, but he will face stiff opposition from a very strong field of riders who will all be wanting to make their mark in the upper reaches of the general classification.

Away from the fight for overall honours, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) will make for explosive action in the race’s sprint stages along with Sky’s Ben Swift.

Bradley Wiggins, SkyWhen Wiggins is focussed and prepares for a specific race, he tends to win that race – see the Tour 2012, the Tour of California last May, and the Tour of Britain last year. One thing all those races had that this year’s Tour of Britain lacks is a substantial number of time trialling kilometres for him to take control, but, even if he’s only close to top form, Wiggins is still the hot favourite.

Lars Boom, BelkinCycling Weekly rating four out of fiveIf Boom can continue a good run of form that has seen him win a stage at the Tour in July and finish second overall at the Eneco Tour in August, he’ll be one of Wiggins’ main rivals. He has history at the Tour of Britain, having won the overall back in 2011, and will relish this year’s arduous terrain.

Michal Kwiatkowski, Omega Pharma-QuickStepCycling Weekly rating three out of fiveBritish fans have the chance to see one of the peloton’s most talented riders in the form of Kwiatkowski. When on form, the Pole possess all the necessary attributes to overcome all of the parcours obstacles and win overall, but, having only raced once this the Tour, he is more likely to use this race to build his condition looking ahead to the world championships.

Mathias Frank, IAM CyclingCycling Weekly rating three out of fiveDespite having never made the top ten of a grand tour, Frank excels in week-long races like this one, having finished second at the Tour de Suisse and fourth at the Tour de Romandie. With the on-form Sylvian Chavanel set to ride (see below), IAM Cycling could approach the race with an exciting looking two-pronged leadership.

Sylvain Chavanel, IAM CyclingCycling Weekly rating two out of fiveChavanel is on a winning streak, having won the Tour du Poitou-Charentes stage race and GP Plouay in the past two weeks. He goes into the Tour of Britain as IAM Cycling’s leader, and his proven form as an attacker and strong rider against the clock will serve him well over the ToB’s terrain.

Leopold Konig, NetApp-EnduraCycling Weekly rating two out of fiveKonig made a name for himself here back in 2012, when he won the decisive Caerphilly stage ahead of Jonathan Tiernan-Locke. Since then he’s gone from strength to strength, winning a stage and finishing ninth overall at the 2013 Vuelta, and managing a very impressive seventh at this year’s Tour. Now the Czech rider returns to British roads, and could this time contest for the overall.

Ones To Watch

Mark Cavendish, Omega Pharma-QuickStep
Stage one and stage 8b look set for high-profile showdowns between Cavendish and Kittel, and the Briton will have to be on top form if he’s to overcome his nemesis. He takes with him Paris-Roubaix winner and super-domestique Niki Terpstra, and favourite lead-out man Mark Renshaw, but that may not be enough to get the better of a excellently-drilled Giant-Shimano team.

Marcel Kittel, Giant-Shimano
Kittel returns to the country in which he achieved so much success back in July, where he won sprint finishes in Harrogate and London at the Tour. Like Cavendish he hasn’t ridden much since the Tour, and may actually be on worse form than his rival – he hasn’t won since the Champs-Elysees stage, and finished one position behind Cavendish at the Vattenfall Cyclassics in sixth.

Ben Swift, Sky
Although Swift will largely be expected to play a supporting role for Wiggins, the hilly nature of the parcours – which could see many stages culminate in sprints contested by a relatively small peloton – resemble the kind of races he was doing well towards the start of the season, and could suit him perfectly.