Packing a series of grueling hilly stages across grippy narrow roads, the Tour of Britain offers rainbow-jersey-hopefuls a perfect testing ground just two weeks ahead of the Flanders worlds.
Top favorites for the world title like van Aert and Alaphilippe will be hoping to see glimmers of rainbows on Britain’s roads next week.
“I had a successful race in Britain the last time I was there in 2018, and I know it will be a hard-fought race this time. It will be the perfect race for me to take on, ahead of the world championships,” Alaphilippe said. “We come here with a strong team and will look to race hard, as we always do.”
Reigning world champ and 2018 Tour of Britain winner Alaphilippe will headline a stacked Deceuninck-Quick-Step squad that also includes Mark Cavendish and Yves Lampaert. Rohan Dennis, Richie Porte, Dan Martin, and the Rally Cycling squad are among the other headline names for the eight-stage race, starting Sunday.
The recently crowned MTB short track world champion Christopher Blevins will also be at the start in his 2021 road debut after an impressive season in the mud. The American will be riding for Trinity Racing. The 2019 defending champion Mathieu van der Poel will not be racing after dropping out of his scheduled start at the Benelux Tour due to the ongoing effects of the back injury he sustained at the Olympic Games.
Classics style stages for rainbow jersey dreamers
Rolling out of Penzance in the southwestern tip of England on Sunday before tracking north through Wales and Scotland, the Tour of Britain is characterized by its long, grinding, classics-style stages. There’s barely an inch of flat road across the length of the route, and three stages amass over 3,000 meters of ascent across a series of Flanders-eque “bergs.” Only stage 3 will break the rhythm with an 18km TTT.
“The route is one of the toughest in modern history, with many ascents, narrow roads, and a lot of climbing every day, which will make things difficult to control,” said Deceuninck-Quick-Step sport director Geert Van Bondt.
The promise of aggressive racing and long days in the saddle combine to make the British Tour a perfect training race just two weeks ahead of the relentlessly hilly Flanders worlds road race. However, the proximity of the two means that many odds-on rainbow jersey hopefuls – including van Aert – are unlikely to be going deep in the race for GC.
For van Aert, the British race will be his first since twice placing in the top-six at the Toyko Games.
“My form hasn’t completely gone after barely a week of doing nothing after the Games. The aim is therefore to get top legs again soon. I haven’t ridden too many races in my career where I haven’t shown anything,” van Aert told Wielerflits. “I’m not going to go crazy at the Tour of Britain … I’m going to take it smart and pick a few stages to test myself.”
The Tour of Britain may not be the biggest race on the calendar, but it is the springboard to some of the biggest races of the year. For van Aert, Alaphilippe, and many more, the road to the rainbow jersey, Paris-Roubaix, and the Italian classics pass through Britain.
The race will be broadcast on ITV4 in the UK, and on Eurosport, and the GCN race pass internationally.