Cavendish, Hammond and Thomas speak to the press

Press conference with Mark Cavendish, Roger Hammond and Geraint Thomas

The Hilton hotel at the Edinburgh airport is a hive of activity as teams arrive, meetings are held through out the day and mechanics prepare the bikes for the start of the 2011 Tour of Britain in Peebles (Scotland).

VeloUK is with the race and will bring you pictures and other bits and pieces during the week.

L-R: Roger Hammond, Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas with the Golden leader’s jersey for the Tour of Britain — will Cav be weaing this for stage 2 after the stage in Scotland tomorrow?

Walking the corridors of the hotel are the stars of the sport in Britain as well as world stars like Ben Swift, Mark Cavendish, Alex Dowsett, Steve Cummings and Geraint Thomas to name but a few. AT 6.30 this evening, a press conference was held where Sweetspots Hugh Roberts and race director Mick Bennett introduced stars past, present and future.

Here is what the riders said. The one question expected to be asked was of Mark Cavendish as to whether he was going to Sky, one of the sports worst kept secrets, but secret it still is as he said it would be a little while before he would announce where he is going in 2012.

Asked what it is like to be back at the Tour of Britain, Mark Cavendish, who had confirmed it was going to be his last race for the team before it disbanded, said “It’s incredible. When I was here last, I won two stages, the Sprints and Points jersey and held the Yellow jersey for  a few days. I have missed it the last years, the programme with my team has meant I have had to miss the race but I have certainly missed not being here and racing on home soil and in front of a home crowd.”

Me: Can I have a photo Mark with Matt? Mark: What do you think this is, the red carpet? Cue for Matt to se the joke!

“I am supper super happy to be here today and this week and we have a strong team (Super strong!) and we won’t just be showing up but giving a good show to the fans and hopefully winning stuff.”

“I think it is a given that I take any race seriously. My form is good and I’m preparing for the biggest chance I have ever had at the World Championships and I haven’t come to disappoint in front of a home crowd. We have come here with a strong team and I’m in good form.”

“You have to be happy with a stage win in every race you do and that is my goal as a sprinter.” Asked for a highlight in the race, a long pause, he replied “Winning a stage wearing yellow when Roger gave me the perfect lead out that day. That was special.”

“Since the Vuelta, I have smashed out long rides. I didn’t want to go home, I didn’t want to let myself get comfortable in England so I stayed in Spain in a training camp and was doing between 150 and 220k. I have also done a four day block at home and have just rested up the last few days for the Tour of Britain.”

Roger Hammond: “This is a great event for British riders. Most of us have to race the continent year long so it is nice to come back and race in a home Tour. It’s like a football team playing most of their season away and then all of a sudden being allowed to play at home in front of home support. It is almost like a novelty like us but important one, it’s nice.  I’m looking forward to it”.

“This race has evolved hugely. All new Tours however much money are ploughed into them, the cycling is fickle and you have to have a history and now this race has a history. Just look at the start sheet and you can see how much it has evolved from a professional sporting side of it. The other side of it is how well it is received by the public now.”

“I just went for a coffee with Mark in Edinburgh and people are just stopping and wishing Mark good luck in the Tour of Britain. In 2004, nobody would have known the Tour of Britain was on or he was winner of stage sin the Tour de France and stop. The sport in general has evolved hugely and with that the Tour of Britain has grown. Now it’s an event where you have the World Professional Road Champion and the Green jersey from the Tour de France.”

As a former winner in Blackpool, asked does he envisage a sprint against Mark Cavendish on the promenade outside Blackpool Tower, he replied “I was always a second level sprinter, I was never one of the best in the world and that was when I was at the peak of my career. Mark is head and shoulders above every other sprinter in the world so you are a fool to race against him in a sprint.”
“My job will be to make sure we are not sprinting against Cav, that is the only way. Why would you, you only have to look at his hit rate.”

“I have  nice memories of Blackpool though, it’s always nice to win stages in your home Tour. Especially in those years I did it with Geraint and the national team with the young guys I could see coming through and they were really good Tours and gave me an extra boost riding with the young guys. For many years, it was just me and Jez (Jeremy Hunt)  so it was nice to see these young guys coming through.”

Geraint Thomas: “My aim is to do the best I can. It has been a long year, racing in January at the Tour Down Under , but we have a strong team here and we want to win the race with somebody. With me would be great but we’ll see how it goes. It is a tough race and has grown over the years and it’s a tough week ahead especially with the weather forecast . We’re looking forward to it and hopefully come away with the jersey.”

“We learnt a lot about ourselves last year and this year have definitely improved. We’ll have to avoid making the same mistakes we did in this race last year and hopefully we can turn it around. We learnt it was wrong to put all your eggs in one basket early on especially in a race like this where a lot can happen. It is not like you’re average pro race especially with only six riders per team.”

“Having no radios will spice up the race and I don’t think anything will be settled until the final day.”

“Through the season you have your peaks and troughs and I am not too sure where I am on that scale at the minute to be honest but hopefully I am not too far down. ”

Alan Peiper shakes the hand of Chris Truett (Motorpoint) before catching up with Malcolm Elliott at the managers meeting.

Alex from Rapha gluing tyres on which took a good few hours! Each rider has three bikes, race, spare and time trial and they use Continential tubulars on their Durace wheels.

The day before the Tour begins sees a lot of meetings where everyone is breifed about the week to come. Well over half if not three quarters of the race staff have been on the race for two or more years.

Roger, Mark and Geraint pose with the invention of Kirkpatrick Macmillan, inventor of the bicycle..

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