Why the Tour of Britain is still one of the most unique races on the calendar
Cycling Weekly's Chris Marshall-Bell takes you behind the scenes as he reports on his third Tour of Britain for this week's edition of the magazine
This quote from Rob Partridge sums up the early years of the modern Tour of Britain: “There were quite a lot of rider protests and some just came for a bit of jolly, not really bothered. One day we were riding somewhere down south, and we were so far behind the race schedule that the whole peloton were getting booed going up the final climb! It’s all changed now, though – everyone is full gas for it.”
Partridge, a Tour of Britain veteran of 11 starts, retired after this year’s final stage into Cardiff, the Bike Channel-Canyon rider bidding au revoir to the race where he once finished eighth on GC. And he’s right – the ToB is no longer a “jolly”. It’s serious racing in preparation for the World Championships.
For myself, it was the third time I had reported on the national tour, and though the racing wasn’t as exciting and unpredictable as recent years (let’s be honest, dull and formulaic perhaps sums up the first five road stages), it’s always a pleasure to work at such a well-organised event where riders are so open to speaking to you.
They can be reluctant to speak at the Tour de France, but at the Tour of Britain you’ll be hard pressed to find even a handful of riders who aren’t prepared to chat, making my job that bit easier. (NB, Mark Cavendish, surrounded by adoring fans at both the start and the finish, is the exception).
It was pleasing to see Lars Boom win his second edition of the race, for he is a rider who I have always felt has been underappreciated and undervalued given his array of attributes. But then, that could be partly his own fault.
A former cyclocross world champion who won the cobbled stage of the 2014 Tour de France, one would assume that he should be a force in the northern European Classics, but to date his best result is (admittedly a credible) fourth in the 2015 Paris-Roubaix. Still, though, at 31, he still has time to conquer the cobbles.
Behind him on GC, in second, was Edvald Boasson Hagen. Slightly shy, but always polite and a gentlemen, the Norwegian, for me, shares the title of the rider of the year alongside Greg Van Avermaet. Victory in a home World Championships would be a fitting way to conclude a memorable year for the Boss.
For reaction, analysis and images from the 2017 Tour of Britain, buy Cycling Weekly September 13 issue from Thursday