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Brother UK Cycling Podcast – Episode 41

Episode Description

This packed preview of the 2023 Brother UK-sponsored Tour of Britain takes you to the heart of Britain’s biggest bike race, as well as considering its economic and environmental

context. Co-hosts Timothy John and Phil Jones MBE, the Managing Director of Brother UK, hear from a host of expert witnesses.

Connor Swift (INEOS Grenadiers) will start his sixth Tour of Britain on Sunday September 3. A ‘graduate’ of the domestic scene, Connor has long experience of British roads. He shares insights gained from racing Britain’s national tour for teams at every level of professional racing and the national team, too.

Cycling is by no means immune from the depressed economic climate affecting every organisation in Britain, private or public. Race director Mick Bennett describes the various economic headwinds affecting the Tour of Britain. He explains why he and his team decided to hold this year’s edition without a title sponsor.

Environmental issues are another external pressure shaping the sport. The UCI is the sport’s world governing body. It joined the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework three years ago. Ben Barrett, the UCI’s Sustainability Consultant, describes the sport’s need to change and adapt in the face of the climate emergency.

Brother UK will serve the Tour of Britain as presenting partner of the Green Zones for a second successive year. Phil explains Brother’s purpose in supporting the race’s sustainability

initiatives. He describes how the company’s award-winning environmental approach has aligned its business operations with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Route Director Andy Hawes provides an inside line on the flattest Tour of Britain parcours for many years. Andy offers sporting insights on where the race might be won or lost. He reveals the best locations for spectators, too, with several stages offering multiple opportunities to watch the riders pass.

The Tour of Britain isn’t the only stage race we’ll be following in the first week of September. Both of our sponsored teams, Brother UK-Orientation Marketing and Hutchinson-Brother UK, will take part in the Ras na mBan, Ireland’s leading stage race for women. Team manager Mark Botteley describes its appeal.

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Episode 41: 2023 Tour of Britain preview

Episode contents

  • 00:02 – Intro
  • 00.38 – Hello and Welcome
  • 04:04 – Part One: News Round-Up
  • 07:35 – Part Two: Introducing The Task Force
  • 14.32 – Part Three: The Director Speaks
  • 24.54 – Part Four Swift By Name...
  • 33.51 – Part Five: Sustainability Matters
  • 48.43 – Part Six: Main Course
  • 1.00.37 – Part Seven: Bring On The Ras
  • 1.06.05 – Outro



Timothy John

“If your passion lies in elite British road racing and you want an inside line on the teams, riders, organisers and sponsors that make this sport such a compelling spectacle, you’re in the right place.

“I’m Timothy John and joining me for every episode is my co-host, the Managing Director of Brother UK, Phil Jones.”

Phil Jones 

“Thanks, Tim. It’s great to be here. We’re going to use this platform to talk about all the key issues surrounding the sport. With special guests, deep dives into hot topics and plenty of chat, we’ll keep you informed about all things UK racing. Stay tuned!”

Hello and welcome

Timothy John

“Hello and welcome to this special edition of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast where today we’l preview the 2023 Brother UK-sponsored Tour of Britain. 

“Now Britain’s biggest professional road race will start in Greater Manchester, our home city, on September 3, and bring its unmatched mix colour speed and excitement to Wrexham,

East Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Suffolk, Essex, Gloucestershire and Caerphilly over the following eight days.

“Britain’s best domestic teams will do battle with the heavyweight squads of the UCI WorldTour in a contest for overall victory likely to include the biggest names in the sport. Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert and the INEOS Grenadier Tom Pidcock are among the superstars featured on a glittering roster.

"Brother UK will again be at the side of the race as Official Print and Results partner and presenting partner of the Green Zones.

"Today, we’ll take a deep dive into the big issues surrounding the Tour of Britain: a challenging economic climate that will see the race race without a title sponsor and an increasing

emphasis on sustainability. Race Director Mick Bennett and Ben Barrett, the UCI’s Sustainability Consultant, will share their views. 

“And Connor Swift of INEOS Grenadiers will give us a view from inside the peloton. A former British champion and a graduate to the elite UCI WorldTour from the domestic scene, it’s hard to imagine a more expert guide to life on the road in Britain’s biggest race.

“Now, here with me to consider the course, the contenders, the surrounding issues and much more, is my co-host, the Managing Director of Brother UK, Phil Jones. Phil, thank-you very much indeed for joining me."

Phil Jones 

“Thanks, Tim. As usual, great to be here. We’ve got huge amounts to talk about today, haven’t we? Mega excitement here at Brother UK because, of course, we’ve got the Tour of Britain shortly to come and, of course, touching on two stages, two different Brother entities: the home of Brother UK where I run the business and our recycling centre of excellence in Johnstown near Wrexham so, yes, fantastic. Thanks very much to Andy Hawes for arranging that this year. Thanks, Andy!”

Timothy John 

“Top man, and we’ll be hearing from Andy Hawes, the Tour of Britain's Route Director, later in this episode. 

“The race will literally roll past our state-of-the-art Brother Industries recycling and remanufacturing facility near Wrexham on stage two.

“Stage one, of course, is a mirror of the closing stage of 2019, from Altrincham to Deansgate in central Manchester, and Phil, that stage still lives in my memory. What an unbelievable


Phil Jones

“It was a fantastic finish. In fact, this is a great stage because Cheshire itself - Great Manchester and Cheshire, particularly - is a real hot spot for roadies, whether you’re around Wilmslow, Alderley Edge, out in the Peak District. We’ve got lots of people who are professional cyclists who live and train around these roads.

"There are thousands and thousands of roadies, multiple clubs, coffee stops, you name it, so I’m really expecting, when you come into Greater Manchester, that city centre finish on the iconic street of Deansgate, you’re going to have everyone coming in. It’s easy for people to come in.

"You'll have this sort of carnival atmosphere, and it will be brilliant. I’m absolutely sure this will again set a benchmark as one of the best stages in the entire race for support.”



Part One: News Round-Up

Timothy John 

“Well, b efore we begin our deep dive into the Tour of Britain, let’s quickly round up the news from the domestic scene. Brother UK sponsors two domestic teams, of course  - Brother UK-Orientation Marketing and Hutchinson-Brother UK - and both were present and correct at the recent Ryedale Grand Prix, arguably the toughest round of British Cycling’s flagship competition, the National Road Series. 

“This year, Ryedale was the third round of the men’s competition and the fourth round of the women’s competition. There’s a slight anomaly, given that the men’s CiCLE Classic is a UCI event. 

“Both races at Ryedale were held on a picturesque but savagely demanding course in North Yorkshire. Mille Couzens of Alpecin-Fenix won the women’s race, second was Tiffany Keep

of our own Hutchinson-Brother UK, and third was the vastly experienced Mary Wilkinson of Team Boompods.

“Another amazing result there for Hutchinson-Brother UK, Phil: not only did we have a rider on the podium, but we also won the team prize, and Hutchinson-Brother UK moves up to second in the overall standings."

Phil Jones

“Indeed, and, in fact, I’ve got a call with Watto later, the manager, and we’re just going to have a chat about things generally. I know he’ll be really delighted with that podium for Tiffany. When you look at the results, actually, it looked a close call. It was a sprint for the line. It wasn’t a convincing result where someone went off with 300 or 400 metres and just left the field behind. It was a bit of a bunch sprint.

“It was fantastic to see Mary Wilkinson up there, as well. Mary, a sheep farmer from the Ribble Valley by day and a fantastic bike rider by the weekend. These very, very hilly courses tend to suit Mary’s riding style, and Tiffany’s too: I wouldn’t normally expected Tiffany to be podium-ing on a course like Ryedale, but she did, and I think that just indicates that she’s in great form. 

“Tiffany isn’t just a road rider. She also, of course, races mountain bikes. This cross-discipline approach, I think, has got her in really good shape at the moment, so that was fantastic to see her on the podium.”

Timothy John

“Well, the men’s race was a total shut-out for Saint Piran, as forecast in our previous episode by Larry Hickmott, the editor of Brother UK-sponsored VeloUK.net.  

“Harry Birchill crossed the line comfortably with his hands in the air, followed by team-mate Zeb Kyffin and then Adam Lewis. Finn Crockett and Bradley Symonds completed the rout.

“I guess Saint Piran can only beat who’s put in front of them, Phil, but we could really do with another strong, UCI Continental men’s team in this country, couldn’t we? I know we have Trinity Racing, but they seem to have more of an international focus. 

“We’re really missing the likes of Wiv-SunGod, aren’t we?”

Phil Jones

“We are, and we can expect to see in these National A races a similar, repeating pattern at the moment, with Saint Piran taking the one-two-three, which is fantastic for the team and for their exposure, of course, but we have to ask ourselves the wider question: is it good for the whole sport if Saint Piran just turn up, destroy a race and then each rider just races against each other within the team? 

“I’m not sure that anybody thinks that’s the right answer, but it’s just where we are right now. While that’s happening, let’s just say congratulations to the team and to the riders for those results. I think it speaks of a wider, deeper topic, which I know we’re going to come onto shortly, which is, well, how do we now somehow take steps to provide the environment whereby we can rebuild and create an environment where there are more teams to compete in races like this.”



Part Two: Introducing the Task Force

Timothy John 

"Well, that provides a perfect lead out for the second item on our news agenda, which is British Cycling’s formation of a task force to consider the wider issues affecting British road


“It’s a panel of eight experts commissioned by Jon Dutton, the federation’s newly-appointed CEO, and a guest on the Brother UK Cycling Podcast. Have a listen to episode 36, if you haven’t done so already. 

“The Task Force will be chaired by triple Olympic Champion Ed Clancy, who, of course, was a rider who combined gold medal-winning success on the track with an equally successful career on the domestic road scene. 

“Now, the panel has been tasked with recommending measures to improve British road racing at the domestic level, and it’s a pretty broad remit. It includes the composition of the elite national calendar, the challenges faced by domestic teams, and opportunities to grow the reach and profile of domestic races.

“Now of all the interesting statements contained in the press release to announce the formation of this task force was Jon Dutton’s assurance that it will not be, and I quote, a talking


“Phil, for reasons I’m sure you’ve about to make clear, you’re more familiar with this task force than most of us.”

Phil Jones 

“Yes. Obviously, I’ve been invited to join this task force and have accepted an invitation from Jon to sit with these very esteemed, knowledgeable people to just, I think, have a broad, zoom out view from people who aren’t immersed day-to-day in the mechanics of everything, to say, ‘Ok, let’s get together. Let’s put our brains in a room and see what we can come up with as new ideas about taking the sport forwards. 

“Now, already, since that press release has gone out, Tim, Facebook has gone crazy and social media has gone crazy and the usual finger-pointing, whether it be the national

federation aren’t doing enough. There’s all sorts of things going on here, but my view is we have got to stay objective. 

“There is already a road commission at BC and that road commission is made up of very, very competent people: Marc Etches, Will Fotheringham, Colin Clews, Bob Varney - people that know the sport inside out. 

“The job of this task force is simply to come up with some new ideas. It’s not to try and prepare a complete, end-to-end strategy that BC just goes away and implements. Our job, in my opinion, is to answer some of the deeper questions that are being asked at the moment: why has the sport got to where it’s got to? What should the sport look like in the future? 

“And I think this is where some of the more difficult conversations and perhaps some of the ideas need to come from is to say, ‘Well, ok, what are we trying to invent here? What are we

trying to do?’

“Are we just trying to look at the sport ten years ago and say, ‘Yeah, we just want that back.’  That might be the answer, but, in my view, that does not take into account where the sport sits in the hierarchy of where people want to go in the sport, for example.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, it’s a changing landscape, isn’t it, particularly for young riders. It’s true that the domestic scene is in very poor health, but it’s also true that young British riders are turning professional at an unprecedented rate.”

Phil Jones

“Here we are now, we’re in an environment where WorldTour teams are just nipping in and plucking out people, regardless of where they are; if they look talented, the WorldTour are just coming in, almost ignoring the steps that were there previously and just saying, ‘We want the best people,’ and we can just see that now. 

“The rules of the game are changing. I think we’ve got to look at this and say, ok. There are probably two types of people who are in the sport. There are people who want to have a day

job but race at the weekend. And you’ve got other people who want to make a career out of professional cycling. 

“What we’ve got to look at is to say, ‘Ok, well if they’re the two groups of people then what is the best environment for that to happen, given that that way that things work now has really, really changed? 

“So what should domestic racing look like to serve those two groups of people? We’ve already got a thriving B scene. That’s really brilliant; maybe that might be enough. 

“We don’t have, in my opinion, enough UCI races in the UK, so perhaps we need to put on a few bigger races where we get more interest from Continental teams to come to the UK because that doesn’t happen very often, does it? It’s only the CiCLE Classic, and the Women’s Tour and the Tour of Britain. Those are the only races that Continental teams come over

for. Can we create more? Is that an answer? So there’s lots to discuss.”

Timothy John

“Absolutely. The Task Force has certainly been given a broad remit and that, I think, is reflected in the depth of expertise on the panel: former riders, team managers, race organisers and, crucially for a sport that seems perpetually on the verge of going bust, commercial experts.”

Phil Jones

“There’s been a lot of discussion: ‘Oh, why aren’t these people on it? Why aren’t those people on it?’ Look, what has got to get done? I’ve got a lot of experience of these things, of course, from corporate life. You’ve got to have a small team of people. The bigger the team gets, the more of a talking shop it becomes. That’s just how it works. 

“What Jon has done is select a group of people with broad, generalised experience. You’ve got Ed Clancy, Jon Herety, you’ve got a couple of riders in Jo Tindley and Monica Greenwood. You’ve got Chris Lawrence: very, very experienced. You’ve got me. You’ve got Jess Morgan, a sponsor, from Rapha, because these issues to resolve about the scene are not just about races and race organisation.

"Actually, some of the bigger issues are commercial. Money. How do we get new sponsors to the sport? How do we get sponsors for races? How does the sport become more financially sustainable? How can it have a new business model? This is where some of the fundamentals are around the domestic scene, so therefore some of the people in the room are bringing skill and competency to have that discussion. 

“It’s not just about road closures and location and entry fees. This is a much, much wider constellation of issues, and I think this Task Force’s job is to narrow some of those down and at least provide a pathway with some recommendations for BC to have a look at. They may ignore all of them. They may go, ‘None of it is possible.’ 

"But rather than us stand on the sidelines, recoding these podcasts and saying things should be better, and what about this and what about that? If invited, yeah, I’m going to go join it, because if I can help, I’m going to help, and I think we should all come up with some good ideas to see how we can take things forward from where we are, because things can’t get any worse, I don’t think, from where we are right now. They can only get better, so let’s look forward constructively.”



Part Three: The Director Speaks

Timothy John

‘Well, let’s get into the main issue on our agenda, and that’s to preview the 2023 edition of the Tour of Britain. Now, we have more than a passing interest here. Brother UK has sponsored the Tour of Britain and the Women’s Tour since 2014, and this year we’ll again serve the race as Official Print and Results partner and as presenting partner of the Green Zones - more on those later. 

“Now, Race Director Mick Bennett has been frank in his assessment of an economic climate that will see the race held this year without a title sponsor.   

“Let’s hear now from Mick."

Mick Bennett

“The major hurdle that we face is the signing up of commercial partners for the event because, unfortunately, this can only go ahead with the right level of commercial sponsorship, but also and equally, the right level of partnerships with the stakeholders i.e. the start and finish venues, and, in some instances, part of the route.

"And if they decide that, after long deliberation and looking at the amount of resource the venues have they have to put behind it as well, they come back to you right at the last minute and say, ‘I’m sorry, sadly we can’t do it,’ it’s one heck of a conundrum. It’s almost like a Rubik cube. You can’t get all the green slots in place until you’ve moved the orange bits, etc. 

“The challenge is for local authorities at the moment is they don’t have the funding to help support the event, and we have struggled, and are currently struggling, with commercial support. Sometimes commercial support can override what you can do with a venue because we can fund closures etc. but when you don’t have the commercial support and sponsorship in place, you can’t go to a local authority and say, well, geographically that fits with the flow of the race from stage one to stage eight, for example, and say, ‘We’ll support you. You give us the bulk of the money, and we’ll fund the [road] closures.' We can’t do that this time. We’re having to draw on our own financial resources to do this. We’re asking both the federation and the rest of the commercial world to support us in this. We just hope that they will. 

“Predominantly, it’s austerity, it’s Brexit, it’s post-Covid, it’s the increase in pricing of commodities. You’ve only got to look at a town or a city centre and you can see so many shops closing. There’s no softer way of saying it: the country is facing this major economic problem. We’ve got probably 450 to 500 people all working on this, and a lot of them are not volunteers. We’ve got a small and very valuable team of volunteers helping us at the starts and finishes and in some instances on the route, but the majority and the main block of

personnel working on it are paid for, including a hefty sum that we have to pay for the police.

“We’ve thought of approaching the culture, media and sport minister, the Home Office, reference the police charges that we’ve faced, but we keep getting knocked back, even with our own federation charging a significant amount of money for, call it a licence fee, if you like, to get this on the UCI/world calendar. It’s a significant amount of money. 

“There are times when my tunnel is so long that I can’t see any light at the end of it, but I’ve been doing this, although not commercially, but technically, for many, many years, as you well know, and you just hope that we’re going to come through it at the end of the day, and we will. Whether we come through it in the same shape as we entered it, I haven’t got a crystal ball. I just don’t know, but I know that the appetite for doing it within SweetSpot never diminishes and the encouragement and the goodwill and the hard work that everybody puts in to this wonderful sport of ours is just admirable.”

Timothy John

“So, there was Mick Bennett, Phil, Race Director of the Tour of Britain, telling it like it is.

“The SweetSpot Group has suffered more than most this year, it seems. Remember, that both the Women’s Tour and Tour Series are already on hiatus. The Tour of Britain could so

easily have joined them, but Mick and his team have decided to run the race without a title sponsor. Kudos to them. 

“I mean, the absence of the Tour of Britain from this year’s calendar would surely have rung the death knell on British road racing. How important is the Tour of Britain to the health of the wider scene, Phil? It’s quite a few rungs up the ladder of world cycling from the National Road Series, isn’t it, but are the two in some way connected?”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, the Tour of Britain and the Women’s Tour, they're known globally. That’s the difference. These are the ones that really sit above the parapet as far as the UK is concerned. And let’s also remember and remind ourselves that the Tour of Britain is going to be on the television, on ITV4, live every day, with TV highlights. It’s going to be on GCN. It’s going to be on Eurosport. It’s Discovery+.

"We’re going to see the very best of British roads and British racing broadcast across the globe. That puts this race in a category of its own. It’s vitally important, in my opinion, for our entire country’s racing scene that the rest of the world looks in and say, ‘Ok, this is what racing in the UK looks like. Look at those roads, look at that countryside.’ It’s fantastic for tourism. It brings people here. It increases our reputation, profile, everything, so, for me, this is a cornerstone of our entire racing scene.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, I don’t think you’d find many who’d disagree with that, Phil And if you’ve been following the clips from previous editions that have been posted to the Tour of Britain’s social channels, you’ll realise just how good the racing and the riders have been: Dan Martin, Nairo Quintana, Primoz Roglic, Alaphilippe, Van der Poel, Van Aert. I mean, this is a race that has routinely attracted the best riders in the world.

“With all that said though, Phil, I have to ask, is a race of this scale without a title sponsor sustainable?”

Phil Jones

“Absolutely not. You can’t cover that cost year after year. All credit to them for running the race this year, I think we’ve discussed this before, and funding a lot of it from their own reserves. Now, that is not a sustainable position. This race needs big title sponsors. We’ve gone over this ground so many times about the economic environment and how difficult it is, and Mick has raised those issues now. There are all of these issues that businesses and commercial people have that they’re trying to navigate through and therefore sponsorship is very low down on the list. 

“But not every company is doing poorly. This is the issue. The sponsor is out there somewhere; they are. It’s just a question now of finding them. Companies are still expanding, growing, doing well and wanting to have a wider footprint, and let’s not forget that this race brings millions of people onto the roadside. There’s television coverage all day long, which is why we do it. It really works, financially, for us, The return on investment we can get can be nearly 25 times: £25 for every £1 we spend in terms of brand reach . Show me many other platforms where you’re going to reach that. 

“If you’re going right the way up and gong into title sponsorship, then previously brands like OVO Energy have really seen that it’s an incredible platform to reach a mass audience. So, it’s a question really, for Sweetspot, their new managing director and commercial people, to be finding new companies to come in to the sport who are aspirational, wanting to reach a

mass audience and using this vehicle to do that.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, well said. For every business that’s struggling at the moment, there are others who will see in the depressed economic climate an opportunity. 

“Cottages.com is a sponsor of the Tour of Britain. Staycations are becoming increasingly popular because of an exponential rise in the cost of foreign travel. 

“Lidl is now the sponsor of a WorldTour team: a budget supermarket chain. They clearly see value in cycle sponsorship. Why wouldn’t Lidl become a sponsor of the Tour of Britain?”

“Why wouldn’t moneysavingexpert.com be the name on the gantry at next year’s Tour of Britain? As we say, for every business suffering in these hard times, others will be doing well.

“Here’s another question for you, Phil, while you’re wearing your commercial hat: does the Tour of Britain remain viable? 

“Putting to one side the immediate issue of funding and financial sustainability, how about its long-term viability? Does it deliver value for partners? Could it thrive again in a more conducive climate? You’ve already told us that it’s working for Brother.”

Phil Jones

“Absolutely. The race as it stands is viable. All it needs now is a title sponsor and probably a couple of other jersey sponsors and off it goes. SweetSpot have got relationships with the local authorities. They understand everything about what needs to be done to put a race on at this scale. Look what they did at the worlds in Glasgow. SweetSpot were the organising partner for the road races in Glasgow. They do this in their sleep. 

“Financially, it has to work. Like any of these things, you can't run them without the money to do them at this scale and ambition, so in the very, very difficult and unpredictable climate we find ourselves in, because SweetSpot’s revenue model requires local authority funding and cooperation, plus commercial sponsorship. It’s private-public basket of money, effectively. Both those things need to work and as Mick highlights, many local authorities are having a difficult time and many businesses are having a difficult time, so SweetSpot end up in the perfect storm. 

“But let’s look back over the last ten years and ask, ‘Has the race been fantastic, well attended, with great sponsors?’ Yes, it has. It’s just in a bit of a difficult time. It will recover, I’m

sure. I think all of us who love the sport, if we think there’s a business doing well, let’s try and encourage them in.” 




Part Four: Swift By Name..

Timothy John

“Well, a pretty deep dive there into the commercial context surrounding the 2023 Tour of Britain, and you wouldn’t expect less from the Brother UK Cycling Podcast, but let’s turn our attention now to the sporting side, and someone who knows more about that than most is Connor Swift of INEOS Grenadiers. 

“This will be Connor’s sixth Tour of Britain. He first rolled out for the national tour in 2017 and has missed only one edition since then; that, of course, was 2020 when the race was

cancelled at the height of the Covid pandemic.

“If you had to draw, Phil, a Venn diagram of Brother Cycling’s place in this sport, well, Connor I think would be at the centre: the lad from Cycling Sheffield made very good indeed. 

“Let’s hear now from Connor.”

Connor Swift

“The Tour of Britain, like you say, the biggest race in the UK, basically. Every professional rider likes to race back at home. Being a professional on the Continent now and racing for a WorldTour outfit and before that a Pro Continental outfit, all my races are predominantly abroad, overseas. When you rewind to when I was racing as a junior, elite and also for Madison-Genesis, a lot of the races were in the UK, and it was only the odd race in Belgium or France or places like that. The tables have turned now and predominantly my season is abroad, so to be back home and racing on home roads is definitely nice.

“I do always think the guys who get to race their home races are able to push that little bit more out of their body and their effort. I was in Hamburg at the weekend, last Sunday, and you probably see in the top twenty more German riders compared to any other nation, and you’ll see at the Tour of Britain more British riders getting results just because you go well in your home races, basically. I feel you do, anyway. 

“It is quite a prestigious race and especially, you know, with the history and how it’s been. I can remember Russ Downing telling me stories about the Tour of Britain. I think other professionals as well find it quite funny when they come over to Britain and they’re all having to drive or ride on the left-hand side of the road, and it’s always a big topic that gets thrown

out there. 

“I think it is a nice race and for those guys who are coming from France, Belgium, Europe and things like that, to come over to Britain is a nice experience for them and, the rest of the peloton really enjoy this race as well. It’s still definitely up there, and I would say that the crowds, compared to other races, are up there with some of the best. The Brits will get at the site of the road in any weather and cheer us on, which is greatly appreciated. 

“The biggest names in the sport have come over here and won the race. Where it’s normally placed in the calendar and in a normal road season with the worlds being pretty soon after the Tour of Britain, it attracts quite a strong field and these big names just to get in that last block of racing before the world championships. Obviously, this year was a little bit different, in terms of how the world championships were kind of like a Games, and I think they’re going to try and do this every four years now, but fast forward to next year, and it should be before the world championships again. It is normally a last sort of training race, the last miles you can get in the legs before the world championships, and it’s hard racing. 

“One of the big things [about] racing in Britain is the roads: they’re not as smooth. There are pot holes and, yeah, it zaps the energy out of you, compared to potentially racing in the south of France or something like that, where you drift along the roads, or even Germany last weekend: the road surface is a lot smoother and you can carry the speed a lot better. You’re generally more sheltered in the peloton, whereas on home roads, you’re still generally pushing higher watts compared to what you would be abroad. That is a big factor in how

the race wears down the peloton stage by stage, and, yeah, the strongest guy generally wins.

“Looking at the stages for this year, there are a lot more opportunities for the sprinters: six out of the eight stages potentially could be a bunch sprint, but I think given that, and given the fact that the Tour of Britain has six-man teams and you’re looking at the teams that are coming this year, there is actually a few good stages that a breakaway might stay [away]. Other teams might mess it up and not quite calculate it right to bring back the break.

"If teams want a sprint at the end of the day then they’ve really got to focus on the beginning bit of the race and not let a group of strong guys go away or a group too big go away. Then you’re looking at the last couple of stages, and, for sure, the last stage looks like a GC day or something that could promote an attack that could create a select group to go to the finish. I wouldn’t say it’s an easy edition, but it’s easier compared to previous editions I’ve done of the Tour of Britain, but either way I think it will still be a cracking race. 

“It’s going to be my sixth outing in the Tour of Britain. I’m getting a bit old now. I’m getting to be a bit of a veteran of the sport. I will have ridden the Tour of Britain for pretty much every level now. Madison-Genesis: a UCI Continental team. Team GB: the national team. Arkea-Samsic: a French Pro Continental team, and now as a WorldTour outfit, British team INEOS. 

“I think I'll enjoy it, and it will definitely be nice having the British fans outside of the bus and [racing on] home roads. It’s going to be exciting, and I’m sure after this conversation, when

I’m in the race, I’ll reflect back and just think of the previous years.”

Timothy John

“Great to hear there from Connor: a rider who knows a fair bit about racing the Tour of Britain. 

“You know, Phil, I always think of Connor as the quintessential British pro: he’s come up through the domestic ranks. He’s acquired a lot of WorldTour polish, but underneath it all, there’s

still a solid core of Yorkshire grit.”

Phil Jones

“Undoubtedly. He is a typical example of somebody who has really come through [the ranks]. You know, we were talking earlier in the pod about taking all of those steps, doing all of the domestic racing, hard, rainy, wintry Sundays. He’s got all of that in his kit bag; chain.gangs, everything. And here is now in the WorldTour, and if ever a rider deserved their success, it would be Connor Swift. He’s a cracking bike rider and obviously a very, very nice chap, too. 

“I’m delighted he’s going to be over for the Tour of Britain. I’m sure he’s going to have his eyes on stage three or stage four: stage three from Goole to Beverley and stage four from Sherwood Forest to Newark. There will be a lot of roads, I'm sure, that Connor knows quite well there, and I’m pretty sure we’re going to see him active in those two stages of the


Timothy John 

“Well, I would love to see it. 

“The last time we saw Connor race on British roads, if we discount the world championships in Glasgow, was at the National Championships in Redcar and Cleveland, where his

performance was just amazing. It was your archetypal hard, scrappy, British race, and Connor was at the heart of it.

“Can we extrapolate his form on British roads from that performance, Phil, or would that not be comparing apples with apples? The nationals is a one-day race, of course; the Tour of Britain is eight hard stages.

“How do you think Connor will go?”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, I’m sure Connor is going to do ever so well. Looking at this particular race, you’re right when you said that it looks like a fairly flat first six stages and then a couple of lumpy stages to bring it all together at the end. I think that’s going to dictate the sort of racing style that we’re going to see through the Tour of Britain. Clearly, breaks will be allowed to go. There are going to be some good sprint stages That’s going to be absolutely fantastic for Sam Bennett,  isn’t it, if he’s looking to ride himself back into form and chuck his hands in the air. 

“But you’ve got to be looking at Wout van Aert for this; you’ve got to be looking at Wout Van Aert, saying, ‘Ok, as long as I’m up towards the front for the first six stages.’ Stage seven,

stage eight, it's sort of saying, there’s probably going to be some sort of major shootout between probably Tom Pidcock and Wout van Aert to take the Tour of Britain.

“I think it’s going to play out in a very, very interesting way, but clearly, I think, Connor is going to have a very big part to play. If Pidcock, for example, is the nominated rider then you couldn’t hope for anyone better than Connor Swift to be there all day, guiding you through the wheels, being on the front, being that diesel engine and making the race active for you.”

Timothy John 

“We spoke earlier, Phil, about the Tour of Britain as a race in transition, so to speak, as it fights to find new sponsors. How about INEOS Grenadiers as a team in transition? They’ve got big names going out the door, either into retirement or leaving for other teams.

“I mean, at their zenith, when they raced as Team Sky and won the Tour de France for fun, they might have regarded the Tour of Britain as little more than a work out, but do you think it will have greater significance this year for that team?” 

Phil Jones

“I think so, yes. We’ve seen a very, very big transition, haven’t we, at INEOS Grenadiers from their old days as Team Sky - ultra dominant, scientific racing - to suddenly this team today where they’re very much more active, going for stages. They’ve really, really changed. 

“I think if we look in 2023, you might argue that they haven’t really had the blistering season that perhaps they’ve had in previous racing seasons, so I’m pretty sure for team morale they might be looking at the Tour of Britain as a race they could not only compete in but potentially win. 

“I think this could be a big morale booster ifto end the season if they could get someone like Pidcock on the podium or even taking the win.”


Part Five: Sustainability Matters

Timothy John 

“Well, a pleasant immersion there in the sporting side, courtesy of Connor Swift, but let’s get our teeth into one of the meatier issues surround this race and indeed any race and that of course is sustainability. 

“Sustainability is an area that affects all of our lives: personal, professional, commercial, you name it. The climate emergency is real. 

“Now, sport is facing increasing pressure to become sustainable. The United Nations launched the Sport for Climate Action Framework three years ago, and the UCI - cycling’s world

governing body - is a member that framework. The signatories have all pledged to halve their emissions by 2030 and to become net zero by 2040. 

“Now, to bring this story right up to date, the UCI launched its Sustainability Impact Tracker on August 1. What is that? Well, it’s an online platform that will enable cycling’s stakeholders to calculate their carbon footprint and to measure their environmental impact of their behaviours against United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

“I caught up with Ben Barrett, the UCI’s Sustainability Consultant, to talk through cycling’s response to the most important issue of our times.”

Ben Barrett

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so by the UCI providing this platform for all cycling stakeholders, we’re going to make it more accessible: make sure that carbon foot-printing and setting actions, putting actions in place in order to reduce our environmental impacts from the sport, it really does begin with setting a baseline, identifying where those hot spot emissions  source are, and it makes sense to tackle those priority areas first because you’ll have at the greatest positive impact. Through this tool, all our stakeholders will be able to measure full impacts across the environmental, social and economic spheres in order to develop action plans, monitor their progress and communicate transparently with fans, with their partners and with all other stakeholders. 

“Travel is the priority area of impact and emissions. The fact that there is a WorldTour: a world tour needs to travel to different places in order to spread the sport and increase cycling development worldwide. The challenges are around how many people are travelling, how far are they travelling. How are they travelling? 

“You can also see already some innovations from different places. Just one that pops to mind is the Tour Down Under which this year had their prologue raced on road bikes and that was simply to reduce the logistics impacts of taking a whole other set of bikes for what was a seven kilometre ride around central Adelaide, so you can see there are some decisions

being made to make things better, to make the sport more sustainable.

“And, likewise, the recently completed Arctic Race of Norway. Because it takes place so far up near the Arctic Circle, teams can’t take their regular buses and vehicles, so the organiser there provides an entire fleet of electric vehicles. They overcame the biggest challenge of how do you charge all of these electric vehicles by partnering with some local electricity companies who helped develop mobile chargers. Now that is a really incredible innovation because those chargers also get used by other sports events up in that area. Because it’s not very densely populated, the elective vehicle charging infrastructures is not so widespread as it is in the reset of Norway. There are amazing things happening there. It’s just getting to the point where these become natural reflexes where we don’t see these as being sustainable but we see those as being normal. 

“There is a lot of engagement with local authorities about road closures; about suitability of hosting a start and finish in a certain part of town. The conversation around charging infrastructure and suitability to host the start-finish is really going to become an essential consideration over the next six years. 

“There is definitely going to be brands, commercial partners out there who will want to be associated with the bicycle as a catalyst for climate action. I think partners as well, just from first-hand, from a lot of the teams in the WorldTour, the partners are demanding stronger climate action. They’re demanding transparency, so there’s pressure being applied in all areas, but again having partners come on board, such as Brother here, as a sustainability partner, is a wonderful way to work together for shared goals and the more that cycling organisations - teams, event organisers, national federations - can work with their partiers, they more we do of that, the more attractive the sport will be to the world’s most sustainable and ethical companies wanting to get involved as well, so it could make a really great story, a really great picture of a truly, low-carbon green sport in the future, but it will take the help and support

and, most importantly, the expertise. I think there’s a lot of sustainability expertise within cycling sponsors that could help unlock some of these challenges for us as well. 

“Any future targets being imposed on professional teams, they really need to align with the UCI and the Sports For Climate Action Framework. Cycling is a sport based on data, innovation and improving performance. The amount of data on performance that these teams will have on their riders already, you know, we need to take that same approach when it comes to calculating our environmental and social impacts as well and use the data to inform the decisions that need to be made. But, yeah, I think making sure that we’re all aligned, that we’re all working to the same target, which is based on IPCC’s scientific fact that globally we need to reduce emissions by 50 per cent by the end of the decade. That also has to apply to the WorldTour.”

Timothy John

“So, great to hear there from Ben Barrett, the UCI’s Sustainability Consultant.

“Phil, you’ll be very familiar with this issue already, running a major business Sustainability isn’t an afterthought any longer, is it, for any organisation. It’s fundamental to your


Phil Jones

“Whatever your organisation does in all honesty, Tim, whether you are the UCI or whether you’re Brother, we all need to making action and progress against SDGs: Sustainable Development Goals, so it’s no surprise to me that the UCI are upping the game here. They’ve signed up to this UN charter for sport, and  they have to be taking action: ‘Ok. Now look at who are all of our stakeholders - race organisers, WorldTour race teams,' and not just road cycling  - across the whole piece here, Tim, mountain biking - any UCI-based racing event.”

Timothy John

“Yeah, this is about more than road racing, isn’t it? The recent cycling world championships in Scotland gave us a pretty clear indication of the breadth of the UCI’s remit.

“I mean what’’s being proposed here is more than tinkering at the margins, isn’t it? Halving emissions by 2030, becoming net zero by 2040: this is going to represent a sea change for

teams and for race organisers.”

Phil Jones

“It’s going to be, I think, a painful journey for the WorldTour. I think it’s going to be very painful. These things are never easy. When I think about some of the work we’ve had to do within our place: fundamental changes to the way we think about things, the way we run the business, choose suppliers, measure ourselves. How do we create performance indicators? How do we put this front of mind when at the same time, we always have commercial pressures. WorldTour teams have the same commercial pressures. They’ve got to continue to attract sponsorship but, what you have to remember is - and this is why we do all the changes that we do - is because our customers demand it of us. On the one hand, we want to do the right thing, but on the other the commercial pressure is actually that a customer is saying, ‘What are you doing about sustainable development?' They’re asking us those questions.”

Timothy John

“Yeah, I guess a business like Brother has a 360-degree view of this, both as a company with customers to satisfy and a sponsor making demands of its sponsored entities 

“Just give us your thoughts here Phil on the complexity of the challenge and the timescale that the UCI has set. I mean, is seven years long enough? And what level of details might a

sponsor demand?”

Phil Jones

“Zoom forwards to 2030. That’s going to arrive very very quickly, and if you’re major sponsors of a WorldTour team say, ‘Well, we are a very sustainable business, and we only want to do business and spend on sponsorship with people who share our values and our goals. Is that you?’ Have you got there? Can you say to somebody, ‘Here’s our set of sustainable data that you can roll into your CSR report or sustainability index.’

“Now if I have that conversation today with anybody really within UK cycling, nobody can give me that information. Nobody. If you ask Brother UK what is our C02 footprint, what is our waste footprint, what is our energy footprint, what is our annual mileage, how much C02 we saved with travel, show you our sustainability policies, our travel policies, I’ve got it all. I can talk to you in that language today. If you want to buy a fleet of Brother printers, I can talk to you about a circular economy, end-to-end, in, out, end of life, data collection, reporting. I can

do that all today. 

“Now that has taken me years of effort and investment to get to that point. Imagine now that you’re a WorldTour team and all you really want to talk about is bike racing, and power and output and data and logistic and trucks and riders and salaries - all of these wonderful things - you’ve basically got to ram this issue right the way up at board level now. Somebody in charge of that team has got to make this a priority for your team; a strategic objective where it might not have been a strategic objective before.

‘This is going to create some pain, but, as we heard from Ben, there are solutions out there, but they’re all a bit scattered right now. They’ve found some unique solutions on electric vehicles, we heard, in the Arctic Race of Norway. Fantastic. Race organisers have had to say, ‘Well, ok, the cost of getting time-trial bikes here was much greater, in terms of C02 and various other things than the stage.”

“These are the fundamentals, and it’s going to change everything. We talked a little about this on the last episode. It’s going to change the way we think about the sport. It’s essential.

It’s got to be done. There’s no getting away from it, but everybody needs to start now.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, I couldn't agree more.

“One of many points made by Ben was that, in a way, cycling teams are uniquely well positioned to make this change. They are obsessed with data. Everything about professional cycling is measured. Everything about professional cycling is shaped by innovation. 

“Now nobody is pretending that any of this is going to be easy. Naturally, I had a good chat about sustainability with the team at SweetSpot, and, of course, they’re doing all they can to

make races like the Tour of Britain more sustainable. 

“But to consider only one aspect, they told me there are up to sixty police motorbikes in the Tour of Britain’s race convoy. Now, is SweetSpot in any position to demand of the Home Office that those bikes are made electric? Of course not. And even if they were, does the charging infrastructure exist in places like Wrexham to keep them all running? Again, no. 

“It is going to be complicated, but, put simply, professional cycling will have to change, The idea that a bike race will operate in the way in 2030 as it does in 2023 is laughable. The

world will have changed beyond recognition in the next seven years, given the increasing severity of the climate emergency, and cycling has no exemption from that.”

Phil Jones

“Absolutely, and I just want to link back, actually, to the British Cycling road task force, Tim. These are the sorts of issues that also need to be thought about for the future, because all of this trickle down that we spoke about in the last podcast need to be thought about for domestic racing because UK racing will need to be following that pattern. There’ll be pressure on the governing body. There’ll be pressure on teams to say, ‘Ok, we’ve all got to cascade this now. We’ve got to be seen as a global sport to be doing our bit.’

“As with all of this big stuff, it always starts big and then trickles down, doesn’t it? We’ve got to assume now that some of the metrics that WorldTour teams are being asked to report upon that domestic teams may be being asked to report upon, and that will be difficult because getting engaged in sustainable development activity costs money. We had to spend a lot of money making sure that we’ve got the right reports, that we’re using the right contractors and all of these sorts of things, so I think is going to be another potential future cost that’s

going to come into the sport that I think no one is really thinking about very much at the moment. 

“If you, as a WorldTour team, want to put somebody onto your staff who has expertise in this area, you’re probably going to need to add £100,000 to your salary bill to get the right person in with the right qualifications to do the right job for you. So there’s a new salary cost you probably didn’t think about.”  

Timothy John 

“We’ve talked about the challenges posed to the sport by new sustainably measures, but we should also discuss the opportunities. 

“Cycling, you’d imagine, is further along the curve than sports like motor racing, or even stadium sports which must have enormous energy requirements, as well as the travel impacts of

the 50,000 or so people who make up a  stadium crowd. 

“The bicycle is still the ultimate mode of low-carbon transport. Racing takes place on the open road, often in scenic locations. To that degree, I guess it is an attractive proposition for businesses wanting to celebrate their own sustainability credentials. 

“All of that leads us rather nicely, Phil, to Brother’s sponsorship for a second year of the Green Zones at the Tour of Britain. Tell us about that.”

Phil Jones

“We’ve got a leading centre of excellence in North Wales, very, very close to the sprint point on stage two in Wrexham, so I’ve emailed the Managing Director of Brother Industries UK today to say, make sure we’ve got a massive crowd out in front of the factory and lots of Brother logos, etc. etc. 

“But the point, really, about this is to say, this is what we do as a brand all day long every day, and sponsoring the Green Zones just seems like a really nice fit for us. People do associate us quite strongly with the road cycling sector. We’ve been around now in the sport for over a decade. If you say ‘Brother’ to someone who’s into cycling, they’ve got almost immediate brand recall. 

“We just want to re-associate the brand Brother with doing good things around sustainability, and therefore the green zones seemed like a bit of an obvious no-brainer to me to put our name around that.”

Timothy John

“It seems like a really nice fit. 

“For listeners who aren’t aware, the Green Zones are areas throughout the course where riders can dispose responsibility of their gel wrappers. Those are promptly collected by the race organisers and sent to a business called Enval in Cambridgeshire, who use a very sophisticated process involving pyrolysis to convert the wrapper into energy.

“So another deep dive into an area one-step removed from the racing, but fundamental to the future of our sport, as indeed it is to every aspect of our futures.”


Part Six: Main Course

Timothy John 

“Well, having described the economic and environmental context in which the Tour of Britain will take place, so to speak, let’s consider the course. 

“This year’s race will take place over eight stages - Greater Manchester, Wrexham, East Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Suffolk, Essex, Gloucestershire and Caerphilly - and the big

takeaway is that the first six of them are flat. 

“This represents a big change from recent Tours of Britain, which have become progressively harder, and represent a throwback to a time when the race attracted to them world’s best sprinters: Cavendish, Greipel, Kittel et al. 

“So what type of race might the course serve up? I asked Route Director Andy Hawes, who’s had a breathless few weeks serving as Route Manager for the road races at the recent cycling world championships in Glasgow.

"Let’s listen to Andy.”

Andy Hawes

“This year's Tour of Britain is probably bookended by the two hardest stages of the race. 

“The opening stage is a reasonably lumpy affair, with the Rake coming, I think, about 40km from the finish. There is still time for it to end in a bunch sprint As we know, back in 2019,

when we finished along Deansgate and Mathieu Van der Poel absolutely cruised across the line, didn’t he? It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. 

“Stage two will be a very quick stage. It’s not a circuitous route. All of the roads are in good condition and quite wide. It should lend itself to some very, very good racing. We’re a smidgen under 110km, which is the shortest road stage we’ve ever done. Unfortunately that wasn’t by design. The stage should have been 40km longer but one of our stakeholders had to pull out at the last minute and say,, ‘Look, sorry, we don’t have the time or the funds to be able to support,’ which was a shame because it took out a very iconic climb. We should have been going up and over the Horseshoe Pass in Denbighshire, but, unfortunately, Denbighshire were unable to commit to us, so we had to reduce the length of that stage. 

“I am looking forward to stage three: dropping down into East Riding Goole and Beverley. It’s the first time we’ve been into that county for a very long time. I'm really excited about that. It should produce excellent racing; some really, really good roads. 

“And then Nottinghamshire: I mean, last year’s Nottingham stage, I know it was the final stage we did of last year’s race, but for me it was the stand out stage of the five that we did. We’ve been working with Nottinghamshire for a number of years now, and they really do understand how to help us put on the greatest bike race in this country, and they help and support we get from those guys is just unreadable, so, yeah, really looking forward to stage four. 

“I think if anything is going to throw up some surprises it will be stage five. We’ve gone to a part of Suffolk that we’ve never been to before, right in the bottom sought east corner of Suffolk, if you like, Pick somebody up and drop them in these little villages and people would say right way, “Right. I know where I am. I’m in Suffolk.' It is quintessentially Suffolk. It’s got some super little narrow roads that wouldn’t be amiss in the Tour of Flanders. It’s going to end in a bunch sprint, absolutely it is, but is there opportunity for people to get

out of sight, out of mind on some of these early little roads and stay away for the day? Who knows, but the racing on these roads is going to be exciting.

“Then we go off to Southend. We hosted the finish there a couple of years ago for the Women’s Tour, which was fantastic. Again, Essex roads: what I found with Essex is they must get bored with driving in a straight line because every other kilometre, there’s a 90-degree right into a 90-degree left, so it’s traditional ‘headwind country’, shall we say. 

“The penultimate stage, stage seven, which should have been last year’s stage six, down in Gloucestershire, and that’s got a couple of stings in the tail. I think the first climb has got an

average of 9.3 per cent for that two-and-a-bit kilometres, and that’s within the first 20km as well. 

“We’re going to shift all the way down to Caerphilly and two ascents of Caerphilly Mountain. This year, we’ve only categorised two King of the Mountains [climbs] per stage. I think there’s probably five or six climbs that could have been categorised on the final day. 

“Obviously, I was feeling a bit mean when I designed that route, just to make a it a little bit tougher! I remember when we drove that route for the first time this year, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah. I’d forgotten how steep Caerphilly Mountain is!’ I did chuckle to myself. I won’t be making myself available for post-race comments from riders after stage eight, that’s for sure!”

Timothy John 

“Well, if you want the inside line on the parcours this year’s Tour of Britain, who better to ask than the Route Director? Chapeau to Andy for giving us his time in what’s been an unbelievably busy period. 

“Plenty there, Phil, for us to consider, but apart from stage two taking place on home roads for Brother, I think it was stage four that caught your eye, and for reasons other than racing.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, absolutely, because the race will go past the Tom Simpson memorial, so you’ve got to look at that and got there’s a domestic rider looking at that stage and saying, ‘If there was a stage I wanted to win, it would be that one.' 

“But the other ting that struck me about that, again, for people who love the sport, is that it will go to Worksop, and for those who didn’t know, Worksop was the home of what was Carlton Cycles, a very famous bicycle manufacturer in the UK, which was later purchased by Raleigh. 

“For those who think back to the Raleigh professional racing team, there was a chap there called Gerald O’Donovan. He ran a division within that particular factory: SBDU. Everybody who was anybody who was a professional cyclist in the UK back in the day pretty much had their bikes made by Gerald O’Donovan. He was the man when it came to building bikes for

domestic professional races. I hope the commentators pick that up. I know they’ll definitely pick up the Tom Simpson bit.

“Believe it or not now the old factory is called the Notts Arena. They’ve got all sorts of things there like indoor bowling and they do lots of community events. I go there for the odd soul event that my friends DJs at. I just have a shiver down my spine and believe it or not, I met his son there, at a Northern Soul event: the son of Gerald O’Donovan. I asked him: ‘Do you have any bikes in your shed that you need to get rid of?” He said: ‘No, we’ve got nothing from my dad’s era except a few photos.’ 

“Anyway, let’s hope that we get some good stories around Worksop.”

Timothy John

“Wow, what are the odds of meeting Gerald O’Donovan’s son in a leisure complex built on the former site of Carlton Cycles? An amazing story!

“Well, before we heard from Andy, we were talking about the Tour of Britain’s former appeal to sprint royalty, and SweetSpot have announced already that Sam Bennett and Fernando Gaviria will return to the race this year. These are the first of the fast men to be confirmed, but could we see others?”

Phil Jones

“Without a doubt. My goodness, I looked at this route and thought, ‘I wish Mark Cavendish was here,’ because of what happened in the Tour de France and all this kind of stuff. This year's Tour of Britain would be perfect for Cav. We would see this hero whom we all love chucking his hands in the air more than two or three times at this Tour of Britain. It would have been perfect for him, and it would have brought out even bigger crowds to see the Manx Missile competing on some of these stages. 

“But it will make for fun racing, some really great bunch sprints, there’s no doubt, but stage eight, that just looks an epic stage, doesn’t it? A double ascent of Caerphilly Mountain, you’ve got Rhigos, you’ve got Bryn Du. It's a lumpy, lumpy stage, and probably the race can be won on stage eight. If you ride a sensible race and you’re well positioned, it looks like a major shootout on Caerphilly Mountain for the Tour of Britain win in 2023.”

Timothy John

“Absolutely. This seems a race almost purpose-built for a final stage decider. 

“Let’s move on to the GC contenders, then, and we’re a little bit blind here because we’re recording before the publication of the final start list, but we know for certain that Wout Van Aert, Tom Pidcock, and Stevie Williams, who recently took the overall victory at the Arctic Race of Norway are among the GC riders.

“So, Phil: contenders for overall victory: who's your money on? Can we look past Wout van Aert?”

Phil Jones

“No! For me, this race screams Wout Van Aert, and after that disappointment, potentially in the worlds, he must be wanting to come here and think, ‘Yeah. Do you know what? Nice end of season boost for me. Let me put that one in the bag. Let me take home the Tour of Britain to end my 2023 on a high. 

“He’s so capable a rider. You saw at the worlds He’s one of the world’s top riders. He’s so multi-faceted in the way that he rides. He can do everything, and I think the race will suit him.

He’s always well positioned, and,, in particular, he can look at those last two stages and know that he can compete, particularly on stage wight. 

“I’m going to go out there and go, it’s Wout van Aert's race to lose.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, I don’t think many people would disagree with you there, Phil, and what a worthy winner he would be again. Of course, Van Aert won the race in 2021. 

“What kind of challenge could Tom Pidcock launch? It’s funny, we talked earlier about INEOS Grenadiers being a team in transition, and Tom, I think, is still working out what type of

rider he is. 

“He had a challenging Tour de France, as the INEOS leader. It was the first time he had led a team at a Grand Tour, and I’m not sure it was entirely to his  liking, And then, my word, won a gold medal at the wold championships on a mountain bike.

“But could the Tour of Britain - six-man teams, hard to control, no time bonuses and plenty of opportunities to attack, at least on stages seven and eight - could this be his type of stage race?” 

Phil Jones

“Yeah, I’m not sure, really, The main thing for me is that if he wants to win the Tour of Britain, he’s just got to have some strong rouleur riders around him because he needs to be sure that he is finishing every day towards the front, fundamentally, with no major time gaps appearing. 

“There’s no doubt that if it gets to stage seven and eight, we know what Tom Pidcock is capable of on lumpy roads and hilly roads. My goodness, he grew up on them in the UK, in and

around Yorkshire. These stages won’t phase him. 

“For me, Tom Pidcock, it's all about making sure he is protected, safe and with very, very small time gaps day after day after day. He doesn’t need to be winning stages: you know, between stage one or stage six. He might fancy stage three or stage four: home roads stages for him. Big crowds out. He’ll have a lot of support alongside people like Connor [Swift], so he might like the look of those and think,’Yeah, I fancy that, ‘ so I think stage thee, stage four and definitely to be competitive when it gets to the last 30km of stage seven, because we know it gets a little bit lumpy, and on stage eight he’s just got to be positioned to make sure that if Wout Van Aert does make a bid for victory that he’s on his wheel and the two of them can absolutely shoot it out."

Timothy John 

“Yeah. I think this could be a really good race for Tom. Fingers crossed. I mean, let’s not forget he missed out on winning the Amstel Gold Race by millimetres, ironically to Van Aert, in 2021. He has an exceptional sprint for a rider so light. I don’t think the number of sprint stages will phase Tom. 

“Finally, Phil, let's consider Sam Bennett’s chances of making an impact on this race. Sadly, it seems a long time since Sam was a member of the sprint aristocracy. He’s been surpassed by riders like Jasper Philipsen in recent years, but, as the old saying goes, form is temporary, class is permanent.”

Phil Jones 

“I hope so. Sam’s a likeable fellow, isn’t he? When we saw Sam Bennett at the top of his game in the Tour de France, what a very capable guy he is. Not frightened of anything, ready to go, he’s got the afterburners, so you’re right: it’s just really about the form. I hope that the team around him that Bora bring can position him well so he can compete and hopefully take a stage or two in these sprints.”



Part Seven: Bring On The Ras

Timothy John 

"Now just before we wrap up our Tour of Britain preview with more from Route Director Andy Hawes, let’s consider the other stage race of interest to Brother Cycling, taking place in the first week of September. 

“The Ras na mBan is Ireland’s only stage race for women. The name literally means. ‘Women’s race’, and it’s been run under that banner since 2006. It has an impressive roster of former champions and was won in 2019 by Claire Steels: who now competes in the UCI Women’s WorldTour but was then riding for Brother UK - FusionRT. 

“This year, the Ras is a five-day, six stage affair, and both of our sponsors teams - Brother UK - Orientation Marketing and Hutchinson - Brother UK - will be present and correct. 

“So what sort of race is the Ras? Where does it fit in the hierarchy? What type of test might it offer our sponsored teams? I caught up with Mark Botteley, the manager of Brother UK - Orientation Marketing, to find out more.”

Mark Botteley

“It’s not a national series race, but it holds huge importance for the development of our riders. None of them will have done a stage race this year, apart from our Norwegian, Tuve Mauland, who’s done a few races in Norway. The rest haven’t done anything remotely approaching a stage race. 

“It’ll be a situation where, having learned everything throughout the year, not only for themselves but as a group to put it all into play in this fantastic stage race. The parcours is

demanding. The road surface is generally similar to the UK: you’re going to get some pretty hard, dead roads, with the odd good bit of road surface. 

“Technical descents, pretty hard, long climbs. Nothing extreme. Nothing like Ryedale or Lancaster: not that kind of steepness but just got long climbs of five or six per cent. They’re pretty tough, and it’s obviously just one day after another and the riders get more and more fatigued. 

“The first stage is normally a bunch finish. It always has been a bunch finish. It’s quite a technical finish because the 90-degree left-hander is probably 200 degrees from the finish line. It’s an uphill spring, so you need to be in the first two or three around that corner if you’re going to stand a chance of winning. 

“There’s a new stage at Tramore, which is where we’re based, so I’m hoping we’re going to have a bit of inside information about that; a bit of inside knowledge. That, I’m led to believe,

will be the hardest stage of the race because the last 40km is pretty much up hill, down dale throughout. It traces the coast line a little bit. 

“The queen stage is the one with two really big climbs; two proper climbs in the last 30km. The first 50km of the race is pretty benign. The bunch generally just tends to roll along, and then it all kicks off on these two thumping great big climbs. 

“The time-trial is the fifth stage. That’s pretty short. It just goes around the castle so there’s not a lot of time to be gained or lost there. 

“The last stage is a town centre race around Kilkenny, which itself is quite tough. There’s an off-camber, 90-degree right-hand turn up through the finish which is off-camber and slightly uphill. It’s not massively technical, not like a Tour Series crit which we have over here, but at the end of the whole week is a challenge. It’s slightly different to what we’re used to in so

much as the crit, because there are laps out for mechanicals and crashes.

“As I've alluded to, we have a young team. If they all get out, I’ll be more than happy. It would be nice to have a result; one of us getting up there at some point in the race, we will take that. As long as they all get round with a smile on their face then that is our main focus, really. It is a learning race for them. 

“In all honesty, Tim, without Brother’s help, there’s absolutely no way we’d be able to do this race. They are so important to us as a sponsor. That is the difference being able to do this race and not, if it wasn’t for Brother.” 

Timothy John 

“So great to hear there, Phil, from Mark Bottley, the manager of Brother UK - Orientation Marketing, and it seems like his young team, which won again recently with Georgia Lancaster, is in for a valuable learning experience."

Phil Jones

“Yeah, the Ras is legendary, really, in the women’s racing scene. It really is. As you describe, there aren’t enough stage races, non-UCI stage races, where a rider can experience that kind of race-transfer-recover-get started. The weather's normally really bad. It’s testing. That’s what I would say. The Ras is always known as a very testing race.

"If anybody can win the Ras, it normally indicates a real strength in the rider. A rider who is a little it a cut above the rest, because they’ve been strategic, they’ve done the positioning, they’ve got the strength, they’ve got the tactics, and they’ve got the fitness to get through those normally quite attritional conditions but quite hard roads and parcours and profile.

“It's absolutely right we should mention the Ras because it’s probably as important a race in the race programme for British domestic teams as it is Irish teams.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, Definitely. We look forward to the Ras: as we say, a race in which we’ve been lucky enough to taste success already in the shape of Claire Steels and Terry Willamson's much-missed Brother UK- FusionRT squad.

"And, my goodness, given the way that Hutchinson - Brother UK are going at the moment - they won the Lancaster Grand Prix, finished second at the Ryedale Grand Prix and even shared a podium with new world champion Lotte Kopecky out in Belgium  you wouldn’t bet against them winning in Ireland.”



Timothy John 

“Well, let’s hear again now from the Tour of Britain’s Route Director Andy Hawes. It’s likely that many of you listening will be planning on visiting the Tour of Britain in any of its start and finish towns or even out on the road, so I asked Andy to recommend the best places to watch the riders pass.”

Andy Hawes

“This year, there are a couple of very unique opportunities to get to see both the start and the finish quite easily: obviously with stage two starting and finishing in Wrexham, which is always handy, and then stage five starting and finishing in Felixstowe. 

“But then, having said that, if we go all the way back to stage one and the start in Manchester, I know people did it back in 2019, when we started in Altrincham. It’s just a quick jump onto the Metro and then you’re into the heart of the city centre, straight from the start, so anywhere’s accessible on the opening stage. 

“It’s a big circumference of Greater Manchester, so wherever you go to see it, you’re either going to go to the start and drop out into Tameside or Oldham or somewhere like that to go

somewhere and see the race come past and it’s going to be quite easy to get back into the city centre to see the finish.

“And the same with stage two, certainly with the start and finish being in the same location, it makes it a lot easier. It’s quite easy just to nip out in an easterly direction from Wrexham and pick up the stage maybe in Cheshire West and Chester and then dive back into the city to watch the finish. 

“Stage three: the most iconic shots from stage three are probably going to come from when it comes through Bridlington, and then it’s going along the coast for a number of kilometres before diving back inland for the finish in Beverley, so, yeah, I think grabbing some shots of the race out along the coast is where I would be heading to.

“Again, Nottinghamshire, is almost like a big figure of eight. If you knew your way around Nottinghamshire, you could quite easily see them at the start and then see them twice  within a handful of kilometres because it passes so close, and then drop down and go and see the finish in Newark-On-Trent. A good cyclist, I would suggest, would probably be able to see it at

least four times on that stage and get a really good feel of what Nottinghamshire has to offer in the way of little lanes and great cycling. 

“Felixstowe, you’re going to get to see it twice. It goes quite deep into Suffolk, so you could drop into Ipswich and then get back to watch the finish.

“Stage six, the Essex stage, is very similar to the Nottinghamshire stage: it does zig-zag through the county. I would say you get to see it a good three or four times out on the route as well. 

“The Gloucestershire stage, again, you could probably see the Gloucester stage in at least two or three different positions before it got to the finish, because it does a loop out of Gloucester, down into South Gloucestershire and then back up, so you could quite easily be at the start and then see it a couple of times out on the route, or, literally, ride from the start, it would be a lovely ride down into Gloucester.

“And then fate final stage, well, you’d need your climbing legs on to try and chase the stage. It is literally up and down the Heads of the Valleys, There is certainly, yeah, I reckon there's

a good opportunity to see the race twice out on the route before dropping down into Caerphilly. 

“So, I think all of the stages this year are super spectator friendly.”

Timothy John 

“So thanks to Andy for  a host of top tips on where to watch this year’s Brother UK-sponsored Tour of Britain, and it’s unlikely that he’ll find himself alone on Caerphilly Mountain next week. 

“Don’t forget the Tour of Britain’s results service is sponsored by Brother UK  Follow the Tour of Britain online @TOBcycling on Facebook, @tourobritain on Twitter, and

@thetourofbritain on Instagram to get the results hot off the press. 

“Phil, thanks very much indeed for joining me today. As ever, we’ve covered a huge amount of ground from economics to sustainability, a professional stage race for men in Great Britain and a valuable development race for women in Ireland. Not bad going!

‘Thanks to all of our guests for their contributions - INEOS Grenadier Connor Swift, Ben Barrett, the UCI’s Sustainability Consultant,  Tour of Britain race director Mick Bennett, Tour of

Britain route director Andy Hawes; and our own Mark Botteley, manager of Brother UK - Orientation Marketing. 

“Phil, thank-you very much again for joining me, and thank-you to everybody out there for listening.”

Phil Jones

“If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe.”