Cycling stars Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas have both recovered from recent injury woes and head a star-studded field that will line up in the Capital for the start of tomorrow’s opening stage in the OVO Tour of Britain.
The duo crashed out of this summer’s Tour de France, but are now raring to go in the eight-day race, with the first turn of the pedals starting at St Giles’ Cathedral beginning the 190-kilometre haul to Kelso. The riders will start at 10.30am and racing will begin in earnest 20 minutes later when they reach Milton Road West.
The route passes Musselburgh Racecourse, Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Longniddry and then heads inland through Haddington, Pencaitland and East Saltoun before the first intermediate sprint of the day takes place at Gifford, closely followed by the battle for king of the mountains’ points at Redstone Rig.
The group will reach Kelso via Duns and will embark on a 79 kilometre loop before returning to Kelso for the day’s finale.
Cavendish, who sustained a broken shoulder in a spectacular crash at the end of stage four in Le Tour, has been a winner in Scotland before, taking the honours in Dumfries during the 2012 Tour of Britain.
The 32-year-old Manxman will race in the colours of the Dimension Data team, which is bidding for a third successive overall victory.
Last year’s winner, Steve Cummings, is an absentee on this occasion, but his predecessor, Edvald Boasson Hagen, is in the field of 120. With doubts still hanging over the fitness of Cavendish, the Norwegian could be his team’s best hope of overall victory.
Dimension Data’s sporting director, Roger Hammond, is relishing the challenge of extending his squad’s winning run.
“The Tour of Britain is a very special and key event for our team. We will be looking to put on a good show once again. We always start a race with the goal to win, this year’s Tour of Britain will be no different,” said Hammond who, as a competitor, beat Cavendish into third spot when he chalked up a stage win in Blackpool in 2005, then topped the podium in Liverpool the following year.
The main objective for Welshman Thomas tomorrow will be to safely negotiate the route and then to build a challenge for overall success as the race progresses, before bidding for glory when it concludes in Cardiff next Sunday.
The 31-year-old Team Sky man is a fans’ favourite for his no-holds barred approach to racing. However, that style comes with its risks and he has endured a wretched season, crashing out of the Giro d’Italia in May, when his objective was the overall win, then suffering further ill fortune at the Tour de France when a broken collar bone sustained on stage nine, while lying second overall, ended his race.
He had worn the leader’s yellow jersey for four days after taking the honours in the opening day’s time trial.
While the prospect of a glorious finale in Cardiff is the main target for Thomas, a return to Scotland rekindles happy memories of the gold medal winning effort he produced at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“The support from the British fans is always fantastic and it’s going to be great to race at home. We’ve got a strong squad coming and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
Thomas has the backing of several experienced colleagues including in-form Michal Kwiatkowski and Ella Viviani, who sprinted to victory on day three of the 2015 edition, when the stage also happened to finish in Kelso.