The thrill of team leading in the Tour of Britain
Here we are the final month of the season, it has flown by, but if I think back to January and the Tour Down Under it seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened since!
September is also the final month of being a 'true' road rider as as such because, come October, I will be back on the track. That is when the whole build-up and training for the Olympics really begins. I have the track Euros first, at the end of October, then a 'boot camp' style block of six weeks' training in Manchester with the track squad. I'm really looking forward to it, and seeing how this last year has gone, I'm sure the Olympics will be on us before we know it.
So with just over a week to go until the Tour of Britain, I am putting the finishing touches to my preparation. Just sitting here writing about the race makes me excited!
I am mainly resting up now with a few long rides to keep the body ticking over. I can definitely feel the racing I have done this year. If it was any other race at the end of the year, I’m sure I would have let myself go.
But the Tour of Britain and World Champs (a week later) are always big, well they are if you’re a Brit.
Saying that, the Tour of Britain has grown in stature since I first did it in 2005. A lot of guys now use it as their final prep for the worlds, if they aren’t riding the Vuelta obviously.
The race route has also improved. There are some hard stages that are constantly up and down, which are the worst, and also some exciting finishes like into Stoke-on-Trent and Caerphilly.
The stages are shorter than most races in Europe but I don’t think this matters too much (with regards to the worlds that are 260km long). If anything it makes the racing harder and after such a long season we already have the endurance and kilometres in us.
I can't wait for it to begin! It is not often we get to race on home roads, in front of a home crowd. One of the stages finishes is in Caerphilly, which isn’t far from where I grew up.
With the success of the Olympic track team and Cav/Brad etc the crowds have grown in recent years. Swansea was the stand out stage of last year, Constitution Hill could have been in Belgium.
I’ve been named as one of the leaders of the team, which is always nice. But to be honest it is a similar situation to Bayern Rundfahrt, where I won my first pro stage race this year. We have such a strong team that any of us stand a shout of winning. The 10km TT helps myself along with Alex Dowset and of course Mick Rogers, who has won the world TT title a few times!
As most of you are probably aware, there is usually a break that decides the General Classification (GC) in the Tour of Britain so it will be up to one of us to be in it. Once the GC has formed some shape we will have more an idea of the true team leader. Hopefully that will be me, I would love to go for the GC win.
The Tour of Britain also marks the start of the Rugby World Cup. Wales kick off their campaign against South Africa on the day we have the first stage of the Tour of Britain.
As I’m sure you know it’s taking place in New Zealand so I’m not sure if we will get to watch it live but hopefully we can record all the games on the bus. It will make the long transfers a lot more interesting!
Wales’ captain, Sam Warburton, also went to the same high school as me, Whitchurch High. They haven’t done too bad on the sporting front with Gareth Bale also coming from Whitchurch. Being the biggest school in Wales probably helped probability wise, but to be fair, the games department were really passionate.
They really tried to encourage us to get involved in sport whilst at school. However, once I started cycling a bit more seriously I managed to avoid the rugby teacher, daily… Where Wales will finish is hard to say. A potential quarter-final clash with an in-form Aussie team could be the game to cause an upset. It would also provide me some bragging rights in the team! Time will tell…