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A North American’s guide to the Tour of Britain – Rally Cycling


You may not know this, but a lot of the articles on the Rally Cycling website – including the one you’re currently reading – are written by British authors. Therefore, we have a unique insight into the race that Kyle Murphy recently described as the team’s “biggest goal” of the late-season, the Tour of Britain.   

Running from September 5-12, the race will take on one of its hilliest routes to date as it travels from the southwest of England all the way to the north of Scotland. For a country roughly the size of Alabama, Britain sure does pack in some fantastic cycling, centuries of history and tonnes of culture. 

This is a guide to the Tour of Britain for Americans – written by Brits – and will lay out some of the reasons this year’s edition can’t be missed.

Why the Tour of Britain is such a big deal 

Much like the recent Joe Martin Stage Race in the US, the Tour of Britain is the UK’s first UCI stage race in more than two years. The last edition was won by Mathieu van der Poel in 2019 and with a total elevation of 18,914 meters, a wide range of stage profiles and a massively strong field, this year’s edition promises to be even more explosive. 

Follow carefully because this may get confusing, but the route of the Tour of Britain passes through three different countries.

Britain (an island), the British Isles (an archipelago) and the United Kingdom (a country) are three entirely different entities, but their names are often used interchangeably, which can be incredibly confusing.  

In fact, ‘Britain’ refers to a geographic landmass – the island on which you’ll find the countries of England, Scotland and Wales. These three countries and Northern Ireland make up the country known as the UK. The race this year has stages in all three nations, and there’s a hard-to-understand regional accent to contend with almost every day, not to mention the ancient Gaelic languages in Wales and Scotland. So, the riders will be “welcome” in England, “croeso” in Cymru (Wales) and “fáilte” in Alba (Scotland).

This year’s Tour of Britain is an ideal warmup for the UCI World Championships in Belgium. The 2021 road races from Antwerp to Leuven follow a relentless undulating route, much like the profiles to be tackled at the Tour of Britain. This is why the likes of multi-talented superstar Wout Van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) and 2018 winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick Step), have come to tune-up their legs on the characteristically heavy, rolling roads of Britain. 

The rest of the start list is also just as strong. This year will be a homecoming for the Tour de France’s green jersey winner, Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck – Quick Step), as well a chance for young talents like Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) and Tobias Foss (Team Jumbo-Visma) – and our men in orange – to match themselves against the world’s best. Rally Cycling alumni Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) is also on the start list and our own Joey Rosskopf is one of five national champions lining up. 

Finally, since its modern revival in 2004, there has never been a North American overall or stage winner. In fact, there has never been a podium for an American rider. Americans Philip Zajicek and Chris Jones finished in fourth place in 2005 and 2012 respectively, and Canadian Christian Meier finished seventh in 2010. Could 2021 be a landmark year at the Tour of Britain for our American and Canadian contingent? 

British slang quiz

For a country that boasts the literary talents of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen, Britain has some bizarre words and phrases. To get Rally Cycling fans talking the lingo, we’ve made a multiple-choice quiz. You can find the answers at the bottom of the page, below the team roster.  

What is someone doing if they are “taking the mickey?”
Taking a ride on the subway 🚅
Mocking someone 😂
Kidnapping a mascot from Disneyland 🏰 

What is a “good old chin wag?”
A long conversation with someone 🗣
A shave from a barber 💈
An uppercut 🥊

What is a “bodge?”
An improvised repair job completed in a hurry that will likely fail 🔧
A small bird native to the Scottish coast 🦜
A type of play in soccer ⚽️ 

What will you get if you order “chips” in Britain?
Chips
Potato wedges
Fries 

What is a “pea souper?”
A traditional Welsh breakfast dish 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿
A thick morning city fog 🌫
A restaurant with a terrible menu 🍽 

Stage by stage 

9/5 Stage 1 | Penzance – Bodmin (180.8km) Undulating
The opening stage sees the riders tour the county of Cornwall. It’s an undulating stage with a slight uphill rise inside the final kilometer. 

9/6 Stage 2 | Sherford – Exeter (183.9km) Hilly
The hilliest stage of the race with the riders climbing a total 3,499 meters. There will likely be fireworks on the run-in to Exeter.

9/7 Stage 3 | Llandeilo – National Botanic Garden of Wales (18.2km) TTT
Stage 3 enters Wales for a team time -trial on a relatively flat course. The finish is across from a beautiful dome-shaped, 110-meter-long greenhouse.

9/8 Stage 4 | Aberaeron – Great Orme, Llandudno (210km) Hilly, uphill finish
Another stage in Wales, the longest day of the week, involves some serious climbing including the category 1 Eidda’s Well and steep uphill finish on the Great Orme peninsula. 

9/9 Stage 5 | Alderley Park – Warrington (152.2km) Sprint stage
Back into England for day five, the stage to Warrington is the first obvious chance for the sprinters. A hilly start to proceedings quickly gives way to a flat run-in to the line. 

9/10 Stage 6 | Carlisle – Gateshead (198km) Hilly
A perfect stage for riders who are gearing up for the hilly World Championships in Belgium, stage 6 in the far North of England may be the most exciting of the lot. 

9/11 Stage 7 | Hawick – Edinburgh (194.8km) Hilly
The penultimate stage starts on the Scottish Borders and finishes in the country’s picturesque capital. This could be a day for the breakaway so look out for Rally Cycling orange up the road. 

9/12 Stage 8 | Stonehaven – Aberdeen (173km) Sprint stage
The final stage of the race is an entirely Scottish affair. The closing kilometers are on a straight road right next to the North Sea. It promises to be a truly stunning finish in a fast-paced bunch sprint. 

Tour of Britain Roster
Robin Carpenter
Colin Joyce
Gavin Mannion
Kyle Murphy
Joey Rosskopf
Nicholas Zukowsky 

How to watch 

Comprehensive race coverage from every stage at the Tour of Britain can be caught on Eurosport Player and the GCN+ app. 

British slang quiz answers

What is someone doing if they are “taking the mickey?”
Taking a ride on the subway 🚅
Mocking someone 😂
Going to Disneyland 🏰 

What is a “good old chin wag?”
A long conversation with someone 🗣 (like a post-race debrief)
A shave from a barber 💈
An uppercut 🥊 

What is a “bodge?”
An improvised repair job completed in a hurry that will likely fail 🔧 (something our mechanics never do)
A small bird native to the British coast 🦜
A play in soccer ⚽️ 

What will you get if you order “chips” in Britain?
Chips
Potato wedges
Fries 

What is a “pea souper?”
A traditional Welsh breakfast dish 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿
A thick morning city fog 🌫 (“it’s a right pea souper at the start of this stage”)
A restaurant with a rubbish starter menu 🍽

— Oskar Scarsbrook to rallycycling.com