World stars will saddle up
FRESH from the London 2012 Games some of the world's top cyclists will be descending on Staffordshire later this month to compete in a gruelling road race.
On Thursday, September 13 crowds will line the streets to greet riders racing in the Stoke-on-Trent stage of The Tour of Britain.
Tour de France winner and seven-time Olympic medal winner Bradley Wiggins and World Champion and sprint legend Mark Cavendish will be taking part. It is the first time in the history of the race that both the yellow jersey winner and the world champion have been in the race.
The 2012 tour will mark a milestone fifth year for the Potteries stage of the nation's biggest professional cycling race – and bosses say fans will be gripped as the new route piles on the pain for the riders.
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Setting off from Trentham Gardens, 16 teams will tackle a gruelling 150 kilometre (93 mile) route taking in Stone, Stafford, Rugeley, Uttoxeter and the Moorlands before finishing in Hanley.
The previous finale outside Hanley Town Hall has been changed to provide a straighter, faster finish along Old Hall Street where hundreds more fans will be able to gather.
National race director Mick Bennett said: "To have the reigning Tour de France and Olympic Time Trial Champion, and the current World Champion competing in The Tour of Britain is a dream for us. That both riders are British and such great champions means that there is now a unprecedented interest in the event."
The Stoke-on-Trent leg will be the fifth of the eight-stage tour. It has been expanded to include more hills by taking in Cannock Chase in Rugeley, and riders will again tackle the notorious Gun Hill in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Last year more than 33,000 spectators were in Hanley to watch the finish of The Tour of Britain. And 590,000 people tuned in to ITV4 to watch the Stoke-on-Trent stage of the Tour of Britain highlights – the highest of all Tour of Britain stages.
The winner of the Stoke-on-Trent stage last year was 25-year-old Dutchman Lars Boom. He sprinted inches ahead of his Rabobank team-mate Michael Matthews to steal the gold jersey of the overall leader from Manx missile Mark Cavendish.
Stage five will start from the Italian Gardens at Trentham Gardens. Entertainment and the warm up race starts from 9.30am, where spectators can enter free of charge. It finishes in Hanley city centre from 1.45pm.
Teams include Endura Racing, Team Sky, Garmin Sharp, Node4 Giordana Racing and Rapha Condor Sharp.
Enthusiasts will be able to sample the route themselves in a public event on September 23.
For more information on The Tour of Britain, visit www.tourofbritain.com.