British Cycling's premier road cycling event will visit Cheshire East for the first time in Tour of Britain history on stage three of this year's race as a star-studded peloton will take on a tightly wound route within the Borough.
Etixx-Quickstep's Julien Vermote will be hoping to retain the leader's jersey after topping the general classification with a stage victory on stage two, while there are points to be won on the stage's three immediate sprints and king of the mountains points.
A bunch sprint expected despite demanding stage
The first ever stage to be hosted in Cheshire East starts in the market town of Congleton, before the route winds its way through the Borough's villages and towns, including intermediate sprints in Alsager and Sandbach. From the second sprint the route weaves north towards the first passage of the finish line in the heart of Tatton Park, Knutsford.
After passing through the historic estate, the riders will set out on a large loop, featuring an intermediate sprint and king of the mountains point in Alderley Edge and the ascent of Brickworks. The peloton will then tackle the ten-kilometre climb of the Cat and Fiddle to reach the highest point of this year's race.
The final 50 kilometres of the stage are then downhill or flat as the riders race back through Knutsford to the finish line in Tatton Park for what is expected to be a bunch sprint following the fractures of the peloton into the finish in Kendal on stage two.
One's to watch
Although this is a thoroughly demanding stage, the descent and long flat stretch of kilometres after the climb of the Cat and Fiddle should see a regrouping and a bunch sprint finish. If so, expect a fiercely contested sprint as most of the world's best sprinters are in Britain to contest the eight stages.
Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) will be looking to add to his stage victory in Castle Douglas on stage one, while Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) will be hoping to better his rival in Tatton Park after crashing on the final bend on stage one. There is also Caleb Ewan (Orica-BikeExchange), Elia Viviani (Team Sky), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo), Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and British rider Dan Mclay to add to the mix.
Despite stage three expected to end in a bunch sprint, do not rule out a breakaway trying to use one of the three climbs as a catalyst for an attack to launch a long-range effort to the finish. Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) specialises in solo attacks and, with the British rider just six seconds behind race leader Julien Vermote, Cummings could try and launch a long-range effort seeking to claim bonus seconds at the stage's intermediate sprints.
Places to watch
Most of the towns on the route have been celebrating the Tour's arrival with lots of golden bicycles or entire stretches of creatively coloured bikes too, and an array of family fun day activities. As the starting town, Congleton offers spectators a great chance to see the riders close-up as they warm-up for the 179.4km ahead of them, before they sign on at the start podium.
The towns of Sandbach and Alsager host the stage's first two intermediate sprints inside the first 51.5km, while Alderley Edge hosts both the third and final intermediate sprint along with the first king of the mountain point of the day. The climbs of the Brickworks and Cat and Fiddle are popular ascents and are no doubt going to draw in the crowds as the riders look to add more points to their king of the mountains points tally and use the climbs as a catalyst for attacks.
Tatton Park offers spectators a chance to see the race twice as the peloton passes the line for the first time after 80km, before hosting the stage finish later in the afternoon. The estate will also be a fanzone with a big screen showing live coverage of the race.