The 2015 Friends Life Tour of Britain has been officially launched in London with a route that includes the race’s toughest ever summit finish, a revamped final stage in the heart of London and a first ever Grand Depart for Wales.
Other firsts for British Cycling’s premier road cycling event include a stage start in the Scottish capital Edinburgh and two stages taking in Northumberland and the north east of England.
Having welcomed the Friends Life Tour of Britain annually since 2010, Wales will play host to the opening stage for the first time in the modern race’s history, with a stage which will take in all six regions of North Wales as it heads from Anglesey to Wrexham. It will also be the first time that the race has started on an island.
Stage two sees the race return to the heart of Lancashire for the first time since 2010, with Ribble Valley and Pendle playing host to a stage from Clitheroe to Colne, which will pass through the Forest of Bowland and Dunsop Bridge, the geographic centre of the United Kingdon.
Cockermouth in Cumbria will be the start venue for the first of two stages to include Scotland, with Stage three heading through Carlisle, Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders to the finish in the grounds of Floors Castle at Kelso.
A second Scottish stage will begin from Holyrood Park in Edinburgh, showcasing some of the city’s iconic landscapes before heading through the Borders and Northumberland to the finish on the coast in Blyth.
Stage five will trace Hadrian’s Wall from Prudhoe in Northumberland into Cumbria and the Lake District before finishing atop Hartside Fell in the Pennines. At five-miles long and 1,904-feet high, the climb will provide the highest and toughest summit finish in the modern Tour of Britain’s history.
Friday 11 September’s stage will join two English cities with the peloton racing from Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham, the latter returning to the route for the first time since 2012.
The penultimate stage will be the longest of the 2015 Friends Life Tour of Britain at 225-kilometres, heading from Fakenham in Norfolk to Ipswich in Suffolk, before the final stage in the centre of London.
The London stage presented by Transport for London will feature an entirely new route in 2015, starting and finishing on Regent Street St James and providing an iconic backdrop for Britain’s biggest professional cycle race which will take in Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the Strand and Whitehall.
In total eleven venues will welcome the modern Friends Life Tour of Britain for the first time in 2015.
Commenting on this year’s Friends Life Tour of Britain route, Mick Bennett, race director, said: "Overall we are absolutely delighted with the course for the 2015 Friends Life Tour of Britain and believe it offers something for everybody across eight very different stages.
"Our hope and intention is to again encourage eight days of aggressive, uninhibited racing, the sort of action that we hope is becoming the trademark of the race.
"We want our national Tour to reflect the tough terrain which is part and parcel of our cycling scene in the UK, and to showcase both the race and the British countryside to spectators at the roadside and to the television audience both at home and around the world."
Commenting on the announcement, Bob Howden, president of British Cycling said: "At British Cycling, we measure the success of our major events strategy by the number of people who watch and are then inspired to participate in our sport and, as our national stage race and the biggest event of the year, the growing popularity of the Friends Life Tour of Britain is further proof that in this country cycling has never been in better health.
“This year’s route will excite any fan of cycling and further boosts the Friends Life Tour of Britain's reputation as one of world cycling's must-watch races, but it will also give people all over Britain a chance to see some of the world’s best riders in action and encourage them to get out on their bikes.”
Commenting on the brand new route for the London Stage presented by Transport for London, Ben Plowden, Director of Surface Strategy and Planning at TfL, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to welcome back Britain’s biggest professional cycle race to the streets of the London.
"With a revamped route touching new areas of the city, I’ve no doubt that this year’s race will inspire a new breed of cyclists, who will soon be able to make use of our new and upgraded cycling infrastructure, including segregated Cycle Superhighways.”
Once again ITV will screen three-hours of live coverage of every stage, starting on ITV for the opening Wales stage before reverting to ITV4 for stages two to eight. ITV4 will also screen a one-hour highlights programme each evening during the race.
2015 Tour of Britain: Stage-by-stage
Sunday 6 September
Stage one - Beaumaris, Anglesey to Wrexham, 177km
Monday 7 September
Stage two - Clitheroe to Colne, 162km
Tuesday 8 September
Stage three - Cockermouth to Floors Castle, Kelso, 216km
Wednesday 9 September
Stage four - Edinburgh to Blyth, 218km
Thursday 10 September
Stage five - Prudhoe to Hartside Fell, 171km
Friday 11 September
Stage six - Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham, 189km
Saturday 12 September
Stage seven - Fakenham to Ipswich, 225km
Saturday 13 September
Stage eight, London stage presented by TfL, 93km