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Tour of Britain 2013

The best Tour of Britain yet?

23rd September 2013

The Tour of Britain 2013 finished yesterday in London. Was it the best Tour of Britain yet?

Holding a cycling race in mid-September in Britain, you're almost guaranteeing 'mixed' weather. When the Tour began in Scotland on Sunday 15th September, the main ingredients in the mixture were wind and rain. It was a similar meteorological story during Stage 2 in the Lake District, when the riders climbed Honiston Pass (with a 24% gradient in places). 

The striking thing, though, was that legions of locals still came out to watch and cheer on the riders. The organisers estimate that 1.5 million people watched the race, compared with 1.25 million in 2012. 

In the late 1980s, I watched the Kellogg's Tour of Britain on Channel 4, and live as it came through Harrogate. Even then, there were decent crowds on some sections of the route. In Harrogate, though, as you can see from the photo below, there were just a few people. (Check out the Ford Escort and Sierra, and the TV Times advert on the right of the picture!).

Kellogg's Tour of Britain in Harrogate

In 2013, the profile of the race was higher (even if the TV highlights still got moved for football), and there were far more spectators than in the 1980s. (Just imgaine how many fans will line the route of next year's Tour de France). 

The race couldn't have turned out better. Bradley Wiggins was on top form, and won the time trial at Knowsley Safari Park (Stage 3). His interviews were almost as good as his cycling, as he told ITV4 that he was prepared to end up in hospital, rather than lose the stage - and that he was close enough to home for his wife to come and visit.

We're fortunate to have more than one British cycling superstar at the moment, and Mark Cavendish didn't disppoint in this Tour, getting the first of three wins on Stage 4 to Llanberis. We also had a glimpse of the future of British cycling, as 21 year old Simon Yates won a hilltop finish on Hayter, Dartmoor, (Stage 6). Yates eventually took third position in the general classification at the end of the Tour.

Another brilliant Cavendish win in Guildford on Saturday set up a perfect final day. On Sunday 22nd September 2103, there was a women's race, the Westminster Grand Prix, won by Hannah Barnes. (Next year, there will be a women's Tour of Britain). Then the last stage of the men's race took place - ten laps round the central London circuit, with big crowds (tens of thousands), lovely weather, and great TV pictures of the riders going past the Houses of Parliament. To top it off, Bradley Wiggins' mum rang the bell to signal the start of the last lap. 

Sunday's result was the ideal one for British cycling fans - Bradley Wiggins winning the overall classification, and Mark Cavendish taking the final stage.

The best Tour of Britain yet? Of course, until the 2014 Tour of Britain trumps it!