Glasgow cheers start of British cycle race

After leaving George Square, the riders head up Glasgows Buchanan Street. Picture: Getty

After leaving George Square, the riders head up Glasgows Buchanan Street. Picture: Getty

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Some of the biggest names in cycling, including Olympic medal-winners Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, pedalled across the west of Scotland yesterday as the opening leg of the Tour of Britain road race got under way.

Crowds lined the 100-mile route from Glasgow to Castle Douglas to catch sight of the 126-strong field as they set off on the UK’s answer to the Tour de France.

Olympic stars were out in force  Sir Bradley Wiggins, winner of eight medals. Picture: PA

Olympic stars were out in force  Sir Bradley Wiggins, winner of eight medals. Picture: PA

Gold medallist Sir Bradley Wiggins, who become the most successful British Olympian of all time in Rio last month, was a star attraction.

But seven other medallists were also part of what is probably the strongest field ever ­assembled for a stage race on these shores.

Germany’s Andre Greipel, nicknamed the Gorilla, won the opening stage in a sprint finish to Castle Douglas after English-born Cavendish crashed in the final turn.

The incident ended the 31-year-old Briton’s chances of an 11th career stage victory in his home race, but he successfully rode across the finish line after the crash.

The race is the first competitive outing for both Wiggins and Cavendish since taking part at the Rio Olympic Games in August.

Greipel, from team Lotto Soudal, will begin today’s second stage – from Carlisle to Kendal – wearing the yellow jersey.

Australian Caleb Ewan, from the Orica BikeExchange team, took second place and Dutch rider Ramon Sinkeldam, of Giant Alpecin, came third.

Meanwhile, Sir Bradley Wiggins, winner of eight Olympic medals and the winner of the Tour of Britain three years ago, finished safely among the main body of riders, or peloton.

His fellow Team Wiggins rider Chris Latham finished in eighth place in the first stage.

Team Great Britain’s Dan McLay is currently sitting in ninth position.

The overall winner of the eight-day race will be crowned in London next Sunday.

The Tour of Britain has grown in stature in recent years and now attracts some of the key figures in the sport. The Grand Depart, the first to be staged in Scotland since 2013, saw riders rolling out of Glasgow’s George Square at 11:30am before completing a circuit of the city.

They headed south, taking in Kilmarnock and heading for Auchinleck, Cumnock and Dalmellington, finishing in Castle Douglas around four hours later.

Glasgow and Castle Douglas have previously welcomed the race, most recently in 2008 and 2006 respectively.

One notable absence from the 2016 event was Tour de France champion Chris Froome, who was competing in the gruelling Vuelta a ­España road race that cuts through the Pyrenees.

Along with the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta makes up cycling’s prestigious top flight of three week-long Grand Tours.

Meanwhile, Scots cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy led thousands of cyclists through the streets of Glasgow as part of the Sky Ride campaign to get people on their bikes.

He said: “I’m delighted to be involved again in this year’s Sky Ride campaign.

“Over the past eight years, tens of thousands of local cyclists have taken to the streets of Glasgow as a result of the successful British Cycling and Sky partnership and we look forward to making 2016’s Sky Ride Glasgow the biggest and best yet.”

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