We look beyond the racing and give you some ride ideas around each of the 2011 Tour's eight stages.
Stage 1│Sunday 11 September
Peebles - Dumfries
The opening stage of the 2011 Tour begins in the town of Peebles and heads through the magnificent Southern Uplands towards Dumfries, over a gruelling 105 miles and three categorised climbs. If watching the opening throes of this year's event has got you hungry for some cycling of your own, then you're spoilt for choice for quality riding in the area.
Four of the 7 Stanes MTB trail centres are within easy reach of the route. At the Peebles end, there's the trail mecca of Glentress, with routes to suit everyone from families to serious mountain bikers. Just down the road at Traquair is the trail centre at Innerleithen with a hardcore cross country loop and challenging downhill trails. Meanwhile at the Dumfries end of the route, the Ae Forest and Mabie trail centres offer more superb follow-the-arrows trail riding.
If you prefer tarmac under your wheels, there's plenty for you in Southern Scotland, either on traffic-free paths or quiet roads. Sustrans' Routes2Ride site has a great searchable database of rides, from a gentle canalside ride at Lochwinnoch to a multi day 250 mile Scottish Borders loop.
More: Where to Ride - Scotland
Stage 2│Monday 12 September
Kendal - Blackpool
Stage two takes the pros from Kendal on the southern fringe of the Lake District to the seaside resort of Blackpool on the Fylde Coast. On its 85 mile journey, the riders will dip into the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Forest of Bowland before heading across the flat expanse of the Fylde to finish on the coast.
Why not watch the ride as it heads through the beautiful and often overlooked Wyre Valley, after which you can explore the area on our 26 mile Scorton and Bowland loop, not forgetting to stop in at the excellent Cobbled Corner cyclist's cafe at Chipping!
If you're up in the Kendal for the race start, you can check out the mountain biking at Grizedale Forest's North Face Trail, with boardwalk galore and less technical options for families. Or perhaps venture further north to Ambleside, where you can test your mettle on our Kirkstone Reckoner, arguably the best short road ride in the Lakes...
Stage 3│Tuesday 13 September
The 87 mile third stage of this year's tour starts at Trentham Gardens near Stoke and loops to the south and east, taking in Stone, Uttoxter and Leek before heading for the finish in Stoke city centre. If watching riders tackle three categorised climbs (including the 1st category climb of Gun Hill) doesn't leave you breathless, there's plenty of great riding for all in the region.
Mountain bikers are well catered for with Cannock Chase in close proximity. The Chase has an ever expanding trail network and has recently reached the finals of the 2011 National Lottery Awards. There are trails at Cannock suitable for families, beginners and experts alike, with plenty of other attractions to offer the reluctant cyclists in your family too!
There are more great traffic-free options in the area if mountain biking doesn't float your boat. Why not watch the race at Leek and then ride the traffic-free Leek to Rushton Spencer Greenway? Or if you're feeling more adventurous, plan an itinerary of your own, using the two National Cycle Network routes that pass through the region?
Stage 4│Wednesday 14 September
Welshpool - Caerphilly
Stage 4 takes the 2011 Tour in Wales, with a tough 114 mile route starting in Welshpool, Mid Wales and heading south to Caerphilly on the edge of the Bristol Channel. On its way the route will serve up three more categorised climbs including two Category 1 climbs. There are also large helpings of great riding to be had if you're going along to watch.
After you've watched the stage depart in Welshpool, why not head 20 miles west to the tranquil surroundings of Lake Vyrnwy, where you can either enjoy a peaceful and sedate circumnavigation of one of the UK's most beautiful reservoirs, or take in two of Mid Wales' iconic climbs, on a route that will take you over the Bwlch y Groes and the Hirnant Pass, dropping in for a visit to the lakeside town of Bala?
If it's mountain biking you're after, South and Mid Wales is perhaps one of the world's preeminent locations. There's some epic wilderness riding to be had in on the Bridleways of the Brecon Beacons, close to one of the stage's 1st category climbs, while the South Wales trail centres at Afan and Cwmcarn are within easy reach.
More: Where to Ride: Wales
Stage 5│Thursday 15 September
Exeter - Exmouth
Stage 5 sees the action relocated to England's South West, with a mega tough 112 mile stage from the cathedral city of Exeter to the seaside town of Exmouth, by way of the windswept and wonderful Dartmoor National Park.
The quiet upland roads of Dartmoor are wonderful to explore by bike and adventurous riders will no doubt plan an itinerary of their own. However, the route of the annual Dartmoor Classic sportive is an excellent ‘greatest hits' compilation of Dartmoor's delights. We rode the event in 2010 so here's a taste of what the region has to offer road riders. (NB: The Tour of Britain route uses some of the same roads as the Dartmoor Classic route, so be mindful of the race itinerary before planning your route to avoid any problems).
If it's a great, ready-made mountain biking experience you're after, Haldon Forest near Exeter has waymarked trails for a wide range of abilities in a peaceful forest setting.
Stage 6│Friday 16 September
Taunton - Wells
Stage 6 is a stage of two halves, the first section is largely flat going across the Somerset Levels, before the route changes character with two category one climbs at the world famous limestone gorge at Cheddar and the climb of Old Bristol Hill on the finishing loop centred around Wells.
The cycling opportunities are equally diverse for racegoers too, with some excellent road riding to be had in the area for mileeaters. Check out the Somerset Cycling website for user submitted routes and other cycling opportunities in the area.
If you're looking for gentler more family oriented riding in the area, the Bristol and Somerset region is crisscrossed with canals and converted railway paths, which form the basis of much of the area's National Cycle Network routes. Check them out here.
More: Where to Ride: South
Stage 7│Saturday 17 September
Bury St Edmunds - Sandringham
After its journey through the West Country, the Tour decamps for East Anglia and a long, relatively flat 124 mile stage from Bury St Edmunds via Ipswich to the Sandringham Estate near Kings Lynn in Norfolk.
The North Norfolk Coast has some stunning riding on offer, which is why we've prepared a special Where to Ride feature, with road, off-road and leisure options. If you enjoy cycling along quiet undulating lanes, through picturesque villages and to quaint coastal towns that have stood the test of time, then the North Norfolk coast is the place for you. It is a truly beautiful part of the UK that has so much to offer cyclists and visitors in general.
More: Where to Ride: East
Stage 8│Sunday 18 September
The 2011 Tour ends in the capital with an individual time trial and a criterium stage taking in Whitehall, Westminster Bridge, Victoria Embankment and the Tower of London.
While the pro riders in the peloton will have their eyes firmly fixed on overall victory, once the racing is over, there are plenty of different ways to take in London's delights by bike. Why not grab one of the city's excellent hire bikes and take a spin through Hyde Park? Richmond Park is also a haven for the city's cyclists with miles of permissive paths in and around the park. Or how about checking out London's network of Greenways - details of which can be found here on the Transport for London website.