Pendle and the Ribble Valley’s hosting of the Tour of Britain’s Stage Two launched in style last week sparking excitement among fans and riders alike.
Ten weeks today, some of the world’s best cyclists will roll out of Clitheroe on Monday, September 7th, tearing into Colne several hours later.
Leader Times Newspapers spoke to Barnoldswick’s Team Raleigh GAC rider, Ian Wilkinson, and he talked about the Tour of Britain’s unique draw and its status revamp in 2014, elevating it to UCI Europe Tour level alongside events such as the Italian one day race Strade Bianche and the week long Tour of the Basque Country in Spain.
Ian said: “It already did attract a host of big names because it’s one of the last stage races before the World Championships.
“But now the bigger teams are all obliged to ride, if you will, because of the higher status so it does lift the quality of the field.
“It’s fantastic, what better place to be able test yourself against the world’s best riders than in your home tour, and for me, what literally is a home tour on the doorstep here in Pendle and Ribble Valley? It’ll be brilliant.”
However, before he can think about being picked for September’s spectacle, Ian is aware he has to show form and avoid injury and illness during a hectic summer of racing, of which Colne Grand Prix on Wednesday, July 15th is one.
Ian said: “There’s a 12-rider squad in Raleigh GAC and only six will get to ride so it will be a bit of tough competition between us lads.
“But I’ve got a pretty good track record, I was sixth on the last stage of the Tour of Britain last year and I’ve been second on a stage before that so I’m quite sure that I can deliver if I get selected (and) I’ll be able to put in a performance or two that’ll warrant my place and the exposure that comes with it.”
The Nick o’Pendle climb, at 2.6km with 7% average gradient, last featured in the Tour of Britain in 2004 when it was tackled from the steeper Sabden side.
It will be one of three King of the Mountains climbs on the stage in September and although set among beautiful landscapes, the 100-mile route is an unforgiving one, and Ian is under no illusions it will be a hard day in the saddle.
He added: “From the Tour of Yorkshire (in May), there was definitely a lot of talk of it being a really savage route. There wasn’t an easy mile on it.
“This Stage Two in Pendle and the Ribble Valley will be the same.
“Straight out of Clitheroe up the Nick o’Pendle, all round Dunsop Bridge and such like, the roads are constantly up and down.
“Small roads, narrow, opens up a bit, narrows down again. The tarmac’s really quite heavy so you’re never really just zipping along like on nice continental smooth stuff.
“It’s a wearing down process really. All these even 30 second or minute climbs add up towards the end of the day and it really takes it out of you.
“Especially looking at the sprint finish into Colne, I think that’ll come down to, not an individual winner I would say, but it could be a medium sized group of 20 or 30 guys going for a sprint up there. So hopefully I’m one of them.”