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The 2021 Tour of Britain route: six talking points

What we know so far about the 2021 Tour of Britain

The start and finish venues for the 2021 Tour of Britain have been announced today. So, what do we know about the route so far?

1. A genuine Tour of Great Britain

First, this will be a genuine Tour of (Great) Britain, with stage starts and finishes in each of the three nations of England, Wales, and Scotland, something that hasn’t happened since the 2017 edition. The 2019 race did go into all three nations, although it was only in north Wales for around 20-30 km. It’s exciting that the first major stage race to take place in Britain since 2019 will cover the length of Great Britain, a potentially poignant marker of post-pandemic recovery.

2. Big transfers ahead?

Second, a downside to the race covering the length of Great Britain is that lengthy transfers between stages could be involved for the teams, something riders have complained about in previous editions.

3. Seven new host venues

Third, the race will include seven new host venues, with Penzance, Bodmin, Sherford, Warrington, Hawick, Stonehaven, and Aberdeen all making their debuts as hosts for the race. Cornwall, of course, will welcome the Tour of Britain for the first time in history when it hosts the Grand Départ on Sunday 5 September.

StageDateStart/finish locations
1Sun 5 SepPenzance – Bodmin
2Mon 6 SepSherford – Exeter
3Tue 7 SepWales
4Wed 8 SepWales
5Thu 9 SepSouth Cheshire – Warrington
6Fri 10 SepCumbria – Gateshead
7Sat 11 SepHawick – Edinburgh
8Sun 12 SepStonehaven – Aberdeen

4. A course for all-rounders?

Fourth, whilst we don’t know much about the terrain yet, we do know it’s likely to favour all-rounders. The details for Stage One have already been announced. It will take in 180 km of lumpy roads, culminating in a tricky finish in Bodmin, in which riders will climb for 500 metres up Turf Street and St Nicholas Street; a section that begins with a 13% incline and averages a gradient of 5%.

Stage Two is likely to be another tough stage. We know already that the route will comb some of Devon’s spectacular coastline and then include a challenging finale through Dartmoor National Park.

It’s hard to believe the two Welsh stages on Stages Three and Four won’t include at least some hills, and with later stages taking in Cumbria, the Pennines and Scotland, there is scope for the inclusion of plenty of hilly obstacles before the finish in Aberdeen.

We understand there could well a Team Time Trial again this year. Race Director Mick Bennett has hinted as much on Twitter recently. If included, it’s a feature that will surely have Dan Bigham’s Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling’s licking their lips.

5. An important moment for British road racing

This year’s race is scheduled to take place following an absence of 722 days since the culmination of the 2019 Tour of Britain in Greater Manchester due to the cancellation of the 2020 event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we’ve highlighted elsewhere recently, it has been a long time since we’ve had top-level racing in the UK, so the return of a major stage race to British shores will be an important moment for British road racing and will likely be a big relief for British UCI Continental teams and their sponsors, for whom the race provides vital exposure.

2019 OVO Energy Tour of Britain – Stage 7: Warwick to Burton Dassett Country Park, England – Rory Townsend of Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes in the Eisberg sprints jersey, Matteo Trentin of Mitchelton-SCOTT in the Cetaphil points jersey, Jacob Scott of SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling in the SKODA King of the Mountains jersey and Mathieu van der Poel of Corendon-Circus Cycling Team in the OVO Energy green jersey. Photo: Alex Whitehead/

6. Which domestic teams will take to the start line?

Speaking of which, the Tour of Britain typically invites four British UCI Continental teams to take part in the race. This year, there are five British teams registered at that level: Canyon dhb SunGod, Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling, Saint Piran, and SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling. So the organisers will have some tough choices to make.

We think it would be hard for them to look past Canyon dhb SunGod and Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling, arguably the two strongest squads. Trinity Racing has one of the most exciting line-ups of young British riders we have seen in some time. SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling performed well in their race debut in 2019 and would hope that earned them some kudos with organisers Sweetspot. And UCI new boys Saint Piran are of course based in Cornwall, starting point for the Tour of Britain.

We haven’t yet seen the selection criteria, but we understand that there won’t be a race-based qualification process as has happened in previous years. Instead, we think the selection is more likely to be based around a combination of sporting, administrative and financial criteria. We’ll be the first to publish details once we know them.

Featured photo: Alex Whitehead/ 2019 OVO Energy Tour of Britain – Stage 7: Warwick to Burton Dassett Country Park, England – Mathieu van der Poel of Corendon-Circus Cycling Team in the OVO Energy green jersey wins stage 7.