Cycling: Britain to host national tour after five-year gap

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The Independent Online

For the first time in five years, this September Britain will once more host its own professional national cycling Tour.

For the first time in five years, this September Britain will once more host its own professional national cycling Tour.

Rumoured to begin in Manchester, the Tour of Britain will have a criterium - where riders race round a closed urban circuit - in Westminster on the final Sunday, 5 September, as its highpoint.

Recent precedents for professional cycling races in the United Kingdom are not encouraging. Both of the Tour's predecessors, the PruTour and the Milk Race, collapsed because of a lack of financial backing.

However, with television coverage to be provided by BBC's Grandstand, one vital element of the fledgling event is in place.

Furthermore, organisers are hopeful that cycling's governing body will maintain its promise that the Tour of Britain will eventually form part of the proposed new top cycling league, the Pro Tour.

The 2004 route heads east from Manchester into Yorkshire, before cutting diagonally across the Midlands for a stage in South Wales. The 16 squads then transfer to London for the criterium.

The UK's leading Continental-based professional, the triple Tour de France stage winner David Millar, said: "This is exactly the kind of race we need to give the sport a higher profile and boost to its image within the UK.

"If people can have a fully professional bike race passing by their front doorsteps, it will be much easier for cycling to reach a wider UK audience. And that can only be good."

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