Tour of Britain 2015: Sir Bradley Wiggins goes on Tour for one last time

Wiggins likely to make final appearance

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Catch him while you can: as of Sunday and for the next week, Sir Bradley Wiggins will make what is almost certainly be his last ever appearance in the Tour of Britain, the country’s flagship stage race.

Now 35, Wiggins’ main end-of-career target is now the 2016 Olympics and vying for a fifth gold medal  – as with three of his previous four, on the track.  With that in mind, the Briton is now racing with a third division squad, Team Wiggins,  which is specifically designed for riders focused on Olympic track endurance events.

For these riders, week-long road races like the Tour of Britain, where they can build their base strength, often form part of their preparation. As such, while Wiggins and his team-mates are in no sense there to make up the numbers in the Tour of Britain, his participation also has to be seen in the context of his gradual build-up towards  his Olympic  swansong of 2016.

Whatever his goals, Wiggins’ presence will prove a huge draw for fans in  the eight-stage, 120 rider race, which starts  today in Anglesey and finishes in Wrexham in what looks set to be a bunch sprint. So, too, will Mark Cavendish, looking to build on his total of 10 stage wins – an all-time record for the British race – in what could well be a series of duels with long-time sprint rival André Greipel as the course first wends its way up to Scotland, then down to its finish in London on 13 September.

“It’s always something special to ride in front of your national crowd,” said Cavendish, with 14 wins already this season, including a stage of the Tour de France, in a Tour of Britain press release. ”It’s already my eighth time at the race and year-by-year I can see how cycling is growing in this nation.”

With no time trial in the 2015 race, the defining moment for this year’s Tour of Britain will likely be Thursday’s stage and the uphill finish after eight kilometres of climbing on  Hartside Fell in the Cumbria Pennines.

However, with just six riders permitted in each team, the Tour of Britain remains notoriously unpredictable and difficult to control, with tomorrow’s and Friday’s hilly stages both high risk for whoever is in the lead. In such tricky terrain, Czech all-rounder Zdenek Stybar – the Etixx-Quick Step team-mate of Cavendish and winner of stages in the Tour de France and Vuelta –  Tour of Britain defending champion Dylan van Baarle, British national champion Pete Kennaugh and his Sky team-mate Ben Swift are all in with a good chance.

Meanwhile, Chris Froome has confirmed that his season is over after fracturing his foot in the Vuelta a Espana’s 11th stage last Wednesday. The double Tour-winner will not therefore be taking part in the upcoming World Championships.