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Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 16:26 UK

Cycling's best of British

TOUR OF BRITAIN
Dates: 12-19 September Route: Scunthorpe-London
Coverage: Daily highlights on ITV4 1900-2000 BST

Bradley Wiggins and his team in action
Bradley Wiggins (right) gets a rare chance to race on home soil

By Alex Murray

Starting in Scunthorpe on Saturday and finishing in London's Whitehall 744 miles and seven days later, the Tour of Britain is the highlight of the season for some riders.

And for others, it provides the last opportunity to build form ahead of the World Championships at the end of the month.

TOUR OF BRITAIN ROUTE
Stage 1: Scunthorpe-York (107.2 miles)
2: Darlington-Newcastle (95.3)
3: Peebles-Gretna Green (95.6)
4: Blackpool-Blackpool (92)
5: Stoke-Stoke (83.3)
6: Frome-Bideford (114.1)
7: Hatherleigh-Yeovil (99.2)
8: London (57.5)

For those British professionals who ride on teams based in Europe it is a rare chance to race on home soil outside of the National Championships.

Although Mark Cavendish is absent, the big draw for British fans will be Bradley Wiggins, who finished fourth at this year's Tour de France and is a serious contender for overall victory.

This year there is the added attraction of eight riders who will make up the new British-based Team Sky next season.

Chief among them is the Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen, who won three stages in last year's race and currently sits third in the UCI world rankings.

His future team-mates, British trio Geraint Thomas, Steve Cummings and Chris Froome are all currently riding for Barloword but aiming to hone their form for the World Championships.

Italian champion Filippo Pozzato of Katusha will also be focused on the Worlds - which take place in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Downing looking for overall win

And his Russian team also includes Ben Swift, winner of the race's King of the Mountains jersey in 2007 and one of the most promising graduates from the GB U23 Academy.

The presence of the big names has fringe benefits for the domestic British teams, with extra exposure benefiting sponsors and also riders hoping to make the leap to the continent.

An exception to this will be Russell Downing of Candi-TV, whose victory at the Tour of Ireland last month earned him a Team Sky contract this week.

This will be the Rotherham rider's swansong on the domestic scene, where he has been one of the most dominant riders in recent years.

After his recent successes Downing, 31, is looking towards overall victory in the general classification.

"The Tour of Britain is always a big focus. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm in the best shape of my life," he said.

"Probably two months ago I wanted stage victories but now who knows? I quite fancy a go at the GC."

606: DEBATE

In less than a decade since it was revived, the Tour of Britain has become an eight-stage race which frequently showcases some of the best developing talent in world cycling.

It is still a long way from being a rival to the Grand Tours in Italy, France, Spain but its success is notable when many races are battling to survive the dual impact of economic downturn and doping scandals.



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see also
Frome gears up for Tour of Britain
10 Sep 09 |  Things to do
Glovers to host Tour of Britain
13 May 09 |  Cycling
Tour of Britain win for Lequatre
14 Sep 08 |  Cycling
Foreign stars sign for Team Sky
10 Sep 09 |  Cycling


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