It is rightly being overshadowed by the big race from Spain, and the Canadian races will take greater prominence, too. Still, there’s a race in Britain over the next eight days. Here’s your live thread, and a few quick things to think about.
- Six man teams: In a “can we make this as gun to flag exciting as women’s racing?” (hint: no, you can’t) push, teams are limited to six riders. This will certainly increase the uncertainty in the field and seems like good news to me.
- A very flat course: As someone who knows Britain fairly well, I’m not sure I can think of a flatter landscape than stage 6 (Newmarket to Aldeburgh) will cover. More than that, there are very few bumps at all. Given that the sprinters have nothing much on this week and the climbers are in Spain, this is a sensible decision.
- The Brits won’t talk about the weather: well... probably. Things can happen fast, but the forecast is pretty settled for the next week, which makes a change given the conditions of some previous editions.
- The winner will be fast: There isn’t much in the parcours to knock the sprinters off. Stage 7 goes through the Cotswolds en route to Cheltenham from Hemel Hempstead. It is very pretty, manicured, hilly country, but it should all be big-ring stuff for these pros. I can’t see all the sprinters being dropped. Unless someone obliterates the 16km time trial (stage 5) or a breakaway wins, this one should come down to bonus seconds.
- The fast men aren’t bad: Dimension Data bring Boss-Hog, Eisel and Renshaw, which suggests they’re serious about supporting local boy and #1 dossard wearing Mark Cavendish. Opposing him will be Caleb Ewan, Alexander Kristoff, Dylan Groenewegen, Elia Viviani and Fernando Gaviria.
- There is some TT-ing skill here too: If the sprinters are going to be beaten, it’ll be because they share out the bonifications between them and nobody builds up a sufficient cushion to hold off the stage 5 chrono specialists. Tony Martin, Stefan Kung, Jonathan Castroviejo and Geraint Thomas, among many others who are pretty handy against the clock. If the TT was any longer, I’d be favouring these guys.
Pick to win: Alexander Kristoff. He’ll need to sprint well enough to pick up some bonus seconds, but he’s going nicely, can cope with the hills and has a good enough short time trial when he needs it. Groenewegen and Martin are others I thought about.
Pick to win stage one: Dylan Groenewegen. Just a gut feeling that he’ll be sprinting better than Ewan and Cavendish at this stage of the season. Viviani is in the form of his life and can’t be ignored.
One to watch: Chris Lawless. The National U-23 Champion leads the UK national team and will be looking to impress his future employers in the big shiny battle bus throught the week. He nicked a stage of the Tour D’Avenir and could try the same stunt here.
So that’s it... except to say that I’m posting this early because I’m about to stroll up to the ceremonial start, which is on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Having just shifted the Fringe, the International Festival, the Book Festival and the Tattoo, our town is full of cyclists. I for one welcome our new road-closing hipster overlords. Hopefully there’ll be some pretty pictures attached to this page before too long.