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Who are the favourites for the Tour of Britain 2021?

Robyn Davidson
6 Sep 2021

A guide to the riders to watch at this year's Tour of Britain, starting on Sunday 5th September

The Tour of Britain finally kicked off on Sunday the 5th of September after its absence from the cycling calendar last year, bringing an abundance of talent with it. Here are riders to watch as the race makes its way from Penzance all the way to Aberdeen…

Wout van Aert, Jumbo-Visma

Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? Wout van Aert might be making his debut, but the anticipation for his arrival may well have surpassed the hype generated online by Drake’s new album.

A master of multitudes, he secured victories in sprint, mountain and time-trial stages at the Tour de France in July. Not content there, he also rode his way to the silver medal in the Olympic road race for good measure.

The Belgian road race champion will now be using the Tour of Britain as further preparation for the upcoming World Championships, where he will be racing both the road and time-trial events.

Stage three’s team time-trial into Llandudno is undoubtedly one to mark for Jumbo-Visma. He lines up alongside the likes of Norwegian road and time-trial champion Tobias Foss, experienced Kiwi George Bennett and multiple time-trial world champion Tony Martin. The Panzerwagen also won the German time trial title for a dominating tenth time this June.

Strength: Skills from being Wout van Aert.
Weakness: All eyes on him from being Wout van Aert.

Rating: Is a 6/5 possible?

Julian Alaphilippe, Deceuninck-QuickStep

The panache. The moustache. The rainbow jersey. Julian Alaphilippe will be gracing the roads of Britain once more, bringing his trademark attacking flair and World Champion bands with him. He won the race in 2018 after leading the general classification from stage six onwards, also winning Bristol’s hilly Stage 3 in the process.

In 2021, Alaphilippe has won La Flèche Wallonne and finished second at both Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the recent Bretagne Classic, while avoiding injury from that widely documented opening day crash at the Tour de France to win the stage and don the yellow jersey. Like Van Aert, the Frenchman will be using the Tour of Britain as preparation for the World Championships and stated the team’s intentions to race hard while doing so.

Stage 4 is marked as the Queen stage in the latest edition of the race, forcing the peloton to scale four classified climbs along the 215-kilometre route complete with a hilltop category one finish. So while Alaphilippe may be keeping an eye on the potential here, the rest of the field will certainly be keeping an eye on him.

Strength: Explosiveness.
Weakness: Probably hasn’t had the most successful year by his own standards.

Rating: 4/5

Ethan Hayter, Ineos Grenadiers

Hayter has been throwing some haymakers lately. At the Olympics he won a spectacular silver medal with Matt Walls in the men’s Madison event.

The 22-year-old then dominated the Tour of Norway to win the first stage race of his professional career. He followed Ide Schelling of Bora-Hansgrohe’s attack in the final kilometre of Stage 1 to pip him to the line in an uphill sprint finish and never relinquished the leader’s jersey. He also bagged a second stage victory in the same uphill manner, timing his jump to perfection in a reduced bunch sprint.

He’ll be riding with a team that contains Owain Doull – who finished third in 2015 – and former World Champion Michał Kwiatkowski. Rohan Dennis will also be at the Tour of Britain, fresh from winning his bronze medal in the Olympic time-trial.

Strength: In form and has a strong team, his joint leadership with Kwiatkowski should work very well for him. Doesn’t carry the highest of expectations like other GC contenders such as Van Aert, not like he can’t deal with pressure anyway.
Weakness: Lacks the stage-racing experience of his main rivals.

Rating: 3.5/5, watching his performance should be fun.

Mark Cavendish, Deceuninck-QuickStep

It goes without saying that Mark Cavendish won’t be challenging for the overall, but the sight of the man who recently tied Eddy Merckx’s stage victory record at the Tour de France will be a welcome one indeed.

His journey has been one of heartbreak to happiness. From battling the Epstein-Barr virus, bravely revealing his struggles with mental health issues and tearing up at the concept of retirement after Gent-Wevelgem, to finding a resurgence that further cements his place in cycling history, his story is one that touches the hearts of so many.

Along with teammate Alaphilippe, powerhouse Tim Declercq will join them for Deceuninck-QuickStep should they require a tractor on narrow country roads. So will Mikkel Frølich Honoré, who finished just behind Alaphilippe at the Bretagne Classic, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Davide Ballerini, and Belgian national time-trial champion – himself a tractor connoisseur – Yves Lampaert.

Strength: Powerful in sprints, rejuvenated from the Tour de France.
Weakness: Climbing. Him and me both.

Rating: 0/5 for the overall. 5/5 for sentimentality.

The Continental Teams

You can read our in-depth article on the UCI Continental teams and their preparations here, but they are always an exciting watch when lining up alongside the World Tour riders.

Canyon dhb SunGod will be making their fourth appearance, previously winning two sprint jerseys with Alex Paton and Rory Townsend. They’ll be bringing 2019 King of the Mountains classification winner Jacob Scott. He is currently leading the men’s HSBC UK | National Road Series through his second place at the Lancaster Grand Prix and ninth position at the Ryedale Grand Prix.

Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling are making their debut at the Tour of Britain and taking James Shaw with them. The 25-year-old’s consistency resulted in him finishing 5th overall at the Tour of Slovenia and Tour of Norway.

The next generation of great British talent will also be on display especially via the Great Britain and Trinity Racing teams, which include four of the six riders who were part of the GB selection for the recent Tour de l'Avenir.