Tour of Britain 2019
Greater Manchester, UK | SaturDAY, 14TH SEPTEMBER 2019
2019 marked the year that the Tour of Britain returned to Manchester. The race had not visited the city since 2004, when the fledgling organisation faced criticism from the riders for failing to safely handle the road closures required for such a large event. The event is much improved since the early days and this year turned out to be a triumph, with the final stage passing off without any hitches on a beautifully sunny autumn day.
Appropriately enough the stage started in Altrincham town centre, a place that has been reborn through the restriction of cars, an awarding winning market and a host of independent shops. What seemed like the whole town came out to see the riders off on their way to pass through all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester, with similar scenes along most of the route.
As in 2004 the race tackled the infamous Rake in Ramsbottom, a climb that reaches 25% and has a handrail so that walkers can haul themselves up the road. With the country in the final throes of a long and heated Brexit saga, British flags competed with EU stars along the route as the divisions within the population showed no sign of abating. As expected the climb would provide a springboard for ambitious attacks, though with over 70km to the finish it would always be a big ask to take it to the line.
By the time the race reached the city centre a front group of just under 50 riders had subsumed the break and the stage would end in a sprint finish. Mathieu van der Poel, race leader and star of cyclocross, mountain biking and the road, would take the win and seal overall victory on a packed Deansgate. His form and almost unparalleled success across multiple disciplines would see him go into the World Championships as the clear favourite. Whilst van der Poel was dominant in the general classification the points and king of the mountains competitions are often an opportunity for domestic teams to get in the limelight and it was Rory Townsend who would ride off in the red points jersey.