As a sport, cycling has never been at the forefront in the United Kingdom. The likes of football, cricket, and rugby are often considered as the major sports in England and in the other major countries that form the United Kingdom. This, however, is not to omit cycling completely from the picture, as Britain does have its share of professional cycling events. The most famous and iconic cycling event in Britain is the Tour of Britain. This annual multistage cycling event may not have the history of the Tour de France, but it is slowly capturing its popularity.
Tour of Britain first began in 1945, which is much later than the likes of Tour de France. Ironically, Britain’s own version of a major cycling event was won by a Frenchman for the first time to earn the nickname Tour de Britain. Robert Batot was the first winner of the race, which was also began largely because Britain wanted its own version of Tour de France and it may be the other reason why it is nicknamed as the Tour de Britain. The event was initially also known as the Milk Race, PruTour, or the Kellogg’s Tour of Britain during various stages in its history because of the event sponsors.
The nickname Milk Race came about as the Milk Marketing Board took monopoly of sponsorship from 1958 to 1987.
The late 1950s and the early 1960s are still seen as the golden period for the Tour of Britain when it comes to British nationals winning the title. While a Frenchman was crowned at the beginning, English riders did not seem to consistently match their primary competitors. It was not until the victory by Bill Bradley in 1959 that England had a run of success in this event. Bradley went on to win the success of the year before the likes of Billy Holmes, Pete Chisman, Arthur Metcalfe, and Les West provided success to the host nation.
This period also remains as the single glorious era for British cyclists in the Tour of Britain. There has been no period of domination since then. In fact, the British have been able to win the title only on occasional circumstances like in 1976 when Bill Nickson won the jersey. Towards the start of the 1990s, the event became much more commercial with heavily sponsored teams taking to the field. However, the event suffered its first major collapse when there was a small hiatus after 1999.
Tour of Britain was not to die and it came back in 2004 with a new set of rules and regulations designed to properly take it to the next level. Even though it restarted as a five stage event, it has subsequently been increased to eight stages. Tour of Britain 2015 was an eight stage event which began in Beaumaris and concluded in London. The event is now organised by SweetSpot Group since 2004 and it attracts more than a million spectators. Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen managed to win the yellow jersey at the Tour of Britain 2015.
The growing popularity surrounding the event sees the addition of a new time trial event for the Tour of Britain 2016. Technically, it takes the number of stages to 9 and riders will cover more than 1300 km. Tour of Britain 2016 will see several World Tour teams as the part of the 20-team event that kicks off in the first week of September. After an extended absence, the event begins at Glasgow while concluding at his familiar London destination.
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