The national race around Britain has had so many guises over the years but it looks to finally have found a successful format for people to take seriously on the annual cycling calendar.
It started on Sunday in North Wales taking in some stunning scenery which is all too often forgotten when we drool over La Vuelta, Giro and Le Tour. Seven more stages take in Lancashire, Cumbria, Scotland, and the Midlands before the final stage in London next Sunday.
Formerly known as the Milk Race, it was dragged through the naming rights for Kellogg’s and Prudential before taking a sabbatical. It was finally reborn as the Tour of Britain in 2004, the transition was gradual from a five stage race at first until increasing to eight in 2008. It became part of the UCI Europe Tour in 2014 which was considered mission accomplished by the organisers.
The race has always attracted a real mixture of professional, semi-professional and amateur teams but the status of the race is now attracting some of the biggest names in the sport. Winners in recent years include Bradley Wiggins, Nathan Haas, Lars Boom and Michael Albasini among others. This years race includes the likes of Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and Taylor Phinney. It will only improve with the interest in the sport arguably at the highest in the UK than it has ever been.
It certainly had a helping hand by the London Olympics in 2012 and will not be the only sport to do so. The road race into my home county of Surrey was spectacular even if the final result was not what we had all hoped for. I stood proudly on Box Hill along with thousands of other devoted cycling fans to witness nine laps of the famous local climb. It was simply breathtaking to witness and it is very unlikely I would ever have the chance to see such an event again. The best riders in the world guaranteed to race past you nine times rarely happens.
Since then I have enjoyed seeing the Tour Of Britain start in my local town of Reigate and pass through another local town, Dorking, the year after. However, the tour must be thankful to its counterpart in France for deciding to bring the race to the UK not once, but twice. The second had a lot to do with the success of the Olympics and while I did not witness the racing across Yorkshire, I was in the area before Le Tour arrived and the excitement was clear.
It is about time we have a race of our own to be proud of. It has its history like all tours do around the world and there is still work to do but it is certainly not out of the question to one day see it as one of the Grand Tours. It will be interesting to see whether it could cope with an increase to a two or even three week race. Perhaps that would be a step too far considering the current timing clash with La Vuelta.
Regardless, I will always enjoy our own race for what it is. Some of the big names choosing to take part enhances the enjoyment but when you consider the countryside that the riders can take in, there is plenty to rival Spain, Italy and even France.
The fans have been out in force once again this year across the route so if the race visits your area, take a moment to lend it your support. You can find out more on the official site for the race this year.
Next week I will look back over the 2015 Tour of Britain but if you want to know my thoughts during the race, feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter.