When to watch the Tour of Britain and who might win it

A swift catamaran trip across the sea on the Vuelta’s rest day because the Tour of Britain is also underway and it’s typically a great race. I’m a bit put out that it clashes with the Spanish Grand Tour in all honesty because the web’s already sagging with the weight of words I’m churning out for that race and additional keyboard hammery would be a step too far.

I guess I’ll do a sort of full race roundup at the end. For now all you need to know is that Juan Jose Lobato’s leading and that he won’t win overall. Like most Spanish sprinters, Lobato can climb pretty well, but I think some of the coming days are tough enough to see him dropped.

Stage five is the most obviously important stage as there’s a summit finish atop Hartside Pass, the longest and highest climb the race has ever used. However, despite this it’s not fiendish – 8km at 5% – and so the following day’s stage could prove more influential.

The Tour of Britain always seems to feature a stage going into or coming out of Stoke and this year is no exception. I know many of the roads they’ll be using extremely well and I have to say it rather looks like they’re heading in the wrong direction, descending many of the area’s finest climbs. Even so, what comes down must go up so there’s hills in there somewhere. It’s a typically tough British stage with very little flat land and with small teams of just six riders, things could get rather messy.

Things peter out a bit from there. They’ve done their best with a stage through East Anglia, jamming a couple of climbs in towards the finish to liven things up, but then on Sunday we get the dull-arsed ‘showpiece’ finish in London. The best I can say about this route is that at least it’s short.

Contenders

Who honestly knows. British racing can be pretty unpredictable.

Edvald Boasson Hagen’s currently second. He used to be able to climb quite well but seems a bit heftier these days.

Team Sky’s Wout Poels is 13 seconds back and certainly worth watching, as is Dylan van Baarle on the same time – not least because he won the race last year.

Zdenek Stybar’s 22 seconds back, as are Steven Kruijswijk – owner of the widest shoulders in professional cycling – and no fewer than three Basques: Igor Anton, Benat Intxausti and Gorka Izagirre. All of these guys are real climbers with the exception of Stybar, who’s more of a rough-and-tumble hard efforts kind of guy. The kind of fella who’s been known to ride with no teeth.

Before the race I’d have had money on Peter Kennaugh, but he’s a further 12 seconds back. In a race which always seems to be won by a tight margin, that might actually be meaningful. The main reason why he’s so far down is that he was penalised 20 seconds for taking an energy gel inside the last 15km.

ITV4’s B-team are doing highlights throughout the week, by the way.