21 Oct, 11:15
In Brendan Gallagher's latest column he looks back on the recent early retirement of Andy Schleck, the King of the Mountains from the 2006 Tour of Britain.
The Tour of Britain, organised since 2004 by SweetSpot Group, is the UK's biggest professional bicycle race and a centrepiece of the British sporting calendar as the country's largest free-to-watch live sporting event, attracting over a million spectators to the roadside each September, with many hundreds of thousands more following via television and online around the world.
The modern Tour of Britain celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2013, having returned to the calendar in 2004 after a five-year absence, quickly re-establishing itself as the main cycling event in Britain and a cornerstone of the UK's sporting calendar.
Ranked at the 2.1 category by the UCI and initially held over five days, by 2008 The Tour of Britain had grown to become an eight-day event, allowing it to visit more parts of the UK than ever before, ranked for 2014 at the 2.HC level. 2012 proved to be a memorable year for British sport, with The Tour coming at the end of a glorious sporting summer, with daily live coverage for the first time on ITV4.
Each year The Tour attracts some of the world's top cyclists to compete on British roads, vying to win The Tour of Britain. In recent years home favourites like Tour de France Green Jersey Mark Cavendish and Olympic Gold medallists Geraint Thomas, Ed Clancy and Sir Bradley Wiggins have been regular fixtures, while the likes of Thor Hushovd, Tom Boonen, Gerald Ciolek, Andre Greipel, Nick Nuyens and Edvald Boasson Hagen have all been stage winners in The Tour.
The Tour of Britain has also seen the development of many household British names, with the likes of Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift all riding early editions of The Tour, exposing them to high quality professional cycling on home roads.
Cavendish is just one of a number of young riders, like Swift, Boasson Hagen and Andy Schleck, who have been successful in The Tour of Britain before going on to have even greater success in some of the world's biggest races, showing the importance of The Tour in the world cycling calendar.
To find out more about the previous editions of The Tour of Britain, click on the links to find out the stage winners and the story of each race.