Stars of the cycling world have spoken of the challenges ahead while preparing for the first stage of The AJ Bell Tour of Britain, the UK’s biggest professional cycle race, from Penzance to Bodmin today (Sunday).

The race is returning after an absence of 722 days following the cancellation of the 2020 event due to the pandemic with a star-studded field headlined by Britain’s Mark Cavendish, from the Isle of Man, reigning World Champion Julian Alaphilippe, from France, and Tokyo 2020 silver medallists Wout van Aert, from Belgium, and Britain’s Ethan Hayter, from London.

Speaking ahead of the race, Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) said; “I’m here at Tour of Britain to race at home and get results for Deceuninck – Quick Step. The team we have here at the race is very strong.

“There’s a lot of natural beauty here in the South West and frankly we’ve got good weather, but it’s different racing in Britain on heavy roads and they build fatigue so starting down here puts fatigue in the legs.

“I think there are chances of victory perhaps in Warrington, perhaps the final stage [in Aberdeen]. There are teams of six, so small team numbers, and these are eight stages are different styles of racing, so there are perhaps two chances, but it’s unlikely to be bunch sprints.”

The star-studded 107-rider line-up contains five reigning national road race champions and a total of 17 different nationalities represented.

Among the riders is Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), from Britain and Ireland – who announced on Saturday that he will retire at the end of the season, making the AJ Bell Tour of Britain his final appearance on British roads.

He said: “Even just arriving in the UK felt special as we so rarely get to race here. It’s been four years since I last did the race and I’m excited to race on the roads that I competed on growing up. It’s always a tough test with a high-quality field and tough terrain. Hopefully we get to experience the crowds that used to come out as pre-COVID it was always one of the best atmospheres we raced with.

“We have a strong team and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do everyday. Some stages really suit me and I hope we can be aggressive throughout the week. Form is always a bit unknown this time of year after a long season but I felt good at Plouay so we will do our best and enjoy my last Tour of Britain”.

Also commenting on the race, AJ Bell Tour of Britain Race Director Mick Bennett said; “The fact that we were unable to run the Tour of Britain in 2020 was enough to raise the excitement level going into this year’s event. Yet, combined with the truly spectacular and challenging route we’ve designed, the quality of this year’s start list makes me believe that we’re about to witness one of the most exciting editions of the modern race to date.

“We look forward to seeing the roads of Great Britain lined with spectators all the way from Penzance to Aberdeen, and I would encourage everybody planning to attend the race to respect their fellow spectators and, of course, the riders, as well as following local COVID-19 guidance. See you all next week – I can’t wait!”

The race gets under way with today’s opening ’Grand Depart’ 180.8-kilometre (112.4-mile) stage through Cornwall from Penzance to Bodmin, culminating with a challenging uphill finish on St Nicholas Street outside Bodmin Keep and Bodmin General steam railway station.

After a second stage in the South West – between Sherford in Devon’s South Hams to Exeter over Dartmoor on Monday – the Tour of Britain includes two stages in Wales, the first an 18.2-kilometre team time trial to the National Botanic Garden of Wales, and the second a testing 210 kilometres ending atop the Great Orme on the North Wales coast.

Stages Five and Six take the race to Cheshire and Warrington, and then across the Pennines from Carlisle to Gateshead with a finish in the shadow of the Angel of the North. The final pair of stages take place in Scotland, between Hawick and Edinburgh, and then culminating with the final stage from Stonehaven to Aberdeen in a week’s time on Sunday, September 12.

The AJ Bell Tour of Britain is sponsored by leading online investment platform AJ Bell, which has a history of supporting elite level sport including badminton, cricket, rugby, squash and triathlon.

The full start list for the AJ Bell Tour of Britain can be found at