Why the world championship contenders are plotting an alternative course via Tour of Britain

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The Vuelta a España has long been the traditional route for world championship contenders to prepare, but this time around some of the top names have decided to bypass the Spanish Grand Tour in their build-up.

The mountainous nature of the Vuelta versus the flat parcours for the worlds in Qatar are one factor in this decision but, most likely, the later than usual date for the championships.

This year the races are taking place between October 9 and 16, with the revised calendar slot designed to boost the chances of cooler weather.

In recent years the championships have taken place in late September, closer to the finishing date of the Vuelta and thus giving riders a chance to carry their form over from one event to the other.

Tour of Britain organisers today confirmed that Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), the dominant sprinter from this year’s Tour and a recent silver medallist at the Rio Olympics, has decided to use the British event as part of his build-up.

Ditto for one of his big rivals Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), plus his German compatriot Rick Zabel (BMC Racing Team).

Other major sprinting names may well also be confirmed between now and the September 4 start.

Apart from Cavendish, Greipel and Zabel, other worlds contenders such as Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), Michael Matthews and Caleb Ewan (Orica-BikeExchange), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie), Arnaud Démare (FDJ) and Olympic omnium champion Elia Viviani (Sky) are all absent from the Vuelta start list.

It remains to be seen if some or all of them will be confirmed for the Tour of Britain.

Dennis and Phinney are two others who should contend for the win in Qatar, with the flat time trial there suiting both perfectly.

They have also opted to compete in the British race rather than in Spain.

“In Mark Cavendish and André Greipel we have two of the world’s top sprinters, who are both already multiple Tour of Britain stage winners,” said race director Mick Bennett on Friday. “We are delighted that BMC Racing Team will be bringing two outstanding time trialists in Rohan Dennis and Taylor Phinney to the race.

“This is the first of several exciting rider announcements that fans can look forward to and will build excitement for what will be another world-class edition of the Tour of Britain.”

The race will run from September 4 to 11. It will be followed by the Eneco Tour, which will start on September 19 and gives sprinters an additional event to dispute.

Conversely, some of the world’s top uphill riders have decided to slug it out in Spain. Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will renew their rivalries there. Each are conscious that the worlds course is not suitable for them this time around.

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