The anticipation for the cycling world is reaching fever pitch as the British Isles gear up for their most celebrated race, the 2023 Tour of Britain. Not only does this competition offer fierce rivalries and tactical masterclasses, but it also showcases a range of prodigious talent. As the event looms on the horizon at the end of this week, the British cycling community is abuzz with excitement. Here’s your comprehensive guide to the awe-inspiring athletes who will undoubtedly make headlines.
The Classics Specialist: Wout van Aert
Wout van Aert, Belgium’s cycling luminary, is a formidable presence in the Tour of Britain lineup. Once known as just a specialist in the Spring Classics, van Aert has also demonstrated a high level of versatility with impressive finishes in both stage races and one-day competitions. His capabilities now extend beyond merely being a classics specialist; his sprinting prowess and tactical intelligence make him well-suited for the undulating and varied British roads. Wout is a previous winner here as well, taking the GC victory in 2021 along with 4 stage wins.
The Young Prodigy: Tom Pidcock
Garnering a significant amount of attention is British sensation and Alpe d’Huez winner Tom Pidcock. This young prodigy has already carved out a name for himself in multiple cycling disciplines, including mountain biking, cyclocross, and road racing. The Brit scored his first World Championship XCO title in Glasgow recently to go with his gold in the discipline at the Tokyo Olympics. Entering the Tour of Britain, Pidcock is more than a hometown favourite; he is a force to be reckoned with and a strong contender for the overall title. His tactical acumen and audacity in making breakaways and surprise attacks make him not just the future but also one of the current faces of British cycling.
The Sprint King: Sam Bennett
In the realm of sprinting, the name Sam Bennett rings loudly. This Irishman has gained a reputation as one of the fastest cyclists on the planet. Bennett will be particularly focused on the Tour of Britain’s sprint stages, aiming to add to an already illustrious list of wins. It’s been a quieter season at the top WorldTour level, with a good few near misses. The Tour of Britain is where Bennett cut his teeth around 10 years ago, taking a stage win in 2013. His blistering speed and uncanny ability to find the right wheel in the frenzied final kilometres make him a perennial favourite for any flat finish.
Last Year’s Winner: Gonzalo Serrano
The reigning champion, Gonzalo Serrano of Spain, returns to the British roads carrying the honour and the pressure of his previous victory. Winning the Tour of Britain is an achievement, but successfully defending the title is something else altogether. He’s had a quiet 2023 season so far, finishing no higher than 6th in any race all season. The spotlight will undoubtedly be on Serrano as he attempts to etch his name into the annals of the Tour of Britain yet again, underlining his formidable capabilities.
The Dark Horses: Kamiel Bonneu, Nils Politt, and Corbin Strong
Although perhaps not the headliners, Kamiel Bonneu, Nils Politt, and Corbin Strong should not be overlooked. Bonneu, best known for his stunning stage win at the 2022 Tour of Britain from a breakaway, is a rider who can make a significant impact when least expected. Politt is synonymous with aggressive, attritional racing and could emerge as a surprise decent GC package. On the other hand, Strong, the New Zealand native, has been consistently high placing, without taking a win this season. His ability on rolling courses might make him a stage winner here or a points jersey contender.
The British Hopes: Mark Donovan and Ethan Vernon
Alongside Tom Pidcock, there are other British talents to watch, notably Mark Donovan and Ethan Vernon. Donovan’s performances have been remarkably consistent across stage races, making him a reliable figure in any team. He was 9th in GC here in 2021 and might be an outside threat for the GC podium this year. Meanwhile, Vernon, winner at the World Championships on the track will be full of confidence with a subsequent stage win at the Deutschland Tour. The course this year is missing a time trial for Vernon to be a true GC threat.