Mark Cavendish and Nairo Quintana help Tour of Britain climb new highs

Home sprinter and Tour runner-up join strong line-up as race enjoys growing significance

Mark Cavendish had always been  expected to take his place on the Tour of Britain start line in the Scottish borders town of Peebles next Sunday. But yesterday’s official confirmation of his presence, allied to that of Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana, one of cycling’s brightest young talents, was another step in the right direction for Britain’s ever-burgeoning tour.

Sir Bradley Wiggins had already been confirmed, topping an impressive line-up of British riders, but the entry list is also notable for other international names of repute, not just Quintana but Alessandro Petacchi, with 48 Grand Tour victories, and Stefano Pirazzi, the king of the mountains at this year’s Giro d’Italia.

Such is the calibre of the peloton that it boasts over 100 Grand Tour wins, although admittedly about 90 per cent of those belong to Cavendish and Petacchi. But the point is that a once-maligned – dare one say, second-rate – race is increasingly making its mark on the calendar.

It has a fluctuating history but has only been in its current guise for a decade, rekindled by the organisers SweetSpot in 2004. Each year, the event has grown bigger, an estimated one million spectators lining the roads for the eight days of action a year ago.

It is worth noting that the same numbers lined the streets for the men’s Olympic road race last year, though a comparison to the Olympics is unfair and, in any case, spectator numbers are expected to increase at this year’s race.

So how has it got to this point? Much of the success is down to the organisation of SweetSpot, who recently had their contract to run the race renewed from next year onwards – they are also planning a women’s event. But the Tour’s growth is also due to the success of British cycling, on the roads particularly. Last year, many people came out just to see Britain’s first Tour de France winner race through the streets of Britain on what was effectively a glorified national lap of honour – before it was cut short when Wiggins had to pull out ahead of the sixth stage with a stomach bug.

He will be in the field once more this year but it will be no sedentary pedal and an early bath, as in 2012. Following a difficult season in which he was forced out of the Giro by illness and injury, then was unable to ride in the Tour de France because of a knee problem, Wiggins will be determined to make his mark on the 16-kilometre Knowsley time-trial in particular. There, on day three, he could lay down a marker for the overall race win, though that is not his target. Wiggins, like many in the field, has eyes elsewhere, in his case the time-trial at the World Championships in Florence later this month.

In some ways, therein lies the problem with Britain’s biggest annual bike race. For many riders it is a precursor to the Worlds while for others it is a wind-down at the end of a long season. Also, it begins on the day one of the big Grand Tours, the Vuelta a Espana, finishes, which overshadows it a little. As things stand, the Tour of Britain boasts just five of the 19 World Tour teams: Sky, Garmin-Sharp, Movistar, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Cannon- dale.

But none of those issues should be seen too negatively. It might not be quite on the premier level of bike races, but it is not far off.

It takes a while for something to get into the international psyche. Cycling as a whole had that issue in Britain, although it has to be said the sport is now more deeply rooted here than in the past. The Tour of Britain faces a battle to gain that acceptance, too. A 10-year history in its current state is mere baby steps in cycling terms, though those steps are in the right direction.

A British winner last year in Jonathan Tiernan-Locke helped the race’s profile as will something like a British time-trial battle between Wiggins and Alex Dowsett this year.

Also Yorkshire’s involvement in the start of next year’s Tour de France and the no doubt continued success of British riders will only further help the race’s cause.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project