Wednesday, September 8 Aberaeron to Great Orme, 210km
Wout van Aert reclaimed the lead of the AJ Bell Tour of Britain in thrilling fashion on Wednesday, passing world champion Julian Alaphilippe on the line at the end of a brutal ascent of Great Orme just outside Llandudno to win the queen stage of the race.
Van Aert began stage four – which was 210km long and featured over 3,000m of vertical ascent – trailing Britain’s Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) by 16 seconds in the general classification.
But with 10 bonus points on offer to the winner, and a nasty final climb featuring ramps of up to 20 per cent, there was always the possibility that the Belgian might be able to snatch back the blue jersey he won on stage one if he could create enough distance between himself and Hayter on the final climb. That was exactly what he did.
Van Aert followed an attack from Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) on the lower slopes to stay in position and then later, when Alaphilippe started his sprint, he was able to follow the Frenchman and sprint past him on the line.
Behind them, Hayter rode cannily, at his own tempo, aware he had a bit of a buffer to play with. It was not quite enough. Despite rejoining the leaders with a few hundred metres to go to the line, their final acceleration did for him and the 22-year-old was able to finish only fifth, eight seconds behind Van Aert. What with the 10 bonus seconds he took on the line, that was enough to put the Jumbo-Visma rider into the overall lead by two seconds from Hayter and by 11 seconds from Alaphilippe.
Van Aert said he rated it as one of his best wins, not for the prestige of the race but for the manner in which he executed it.
“It was painful for two kilometres”, Van Aert said. “At the bottom of the final climb it was very steep. I set myself the goal to survive that tricky part. We knew Alaphilippe and Woods would be the biggest competitors today. When I was in the wheel of those guys, I knew I could rely on my sprint.
“I was also thinking about the general classification. When Julian attacked, I put in a good sprint. This was a very nice finish. I put this victory high on my list. It may not be the biggest race I have won, but I will be happy with the way I did it for a long time. I am very happy with this victory.”
It promises to be a thrilling second half of the race with Van Aert, Hayter and Alaphilippe separated by such small margins.
Stage five on Thursday will take the peloton 152.2km from Alderley Park to Warrington, and could offer a first opportunity for Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) to go for a stage win.
There are then two classics-style stages as the race heads north into Scotland before Sunday’s finish in Aberdeen.
Ethan Hayter grabs Tour of Britain lead as Ineos Grenadiers seal team time trial victory
Tuesday, September 7 – Llandeilo to the National Botanic Garden of Wales, 18.2km (team time trial)
Home rider Ethan Hayter grabbed the lead of the AJ Bell Tour of Britain as Ineos Grenadiers took victory in a sweltering team time trial in Carmarthenshire.
Hayter, 22, began the day 26 seconds behind the American Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling), the surprise winner of stage two in Devon. In reality, though, it was always going to be a battle between Ineos Grenadiers and fellow WorldTour heavyweights Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck-Quick Step, who have Wout van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe leading for them respectively this week.
And it was Ineos Grenadiers, with Australians Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte, both notable time trialists, in their ranks, who came out on top, setting a time of 20:22 on the 18.2km course from Llandeilo to the National Botanic Garden of Wales.
That was 17 seconds faster than Deceuninck-Quick Step managed and 20 seconds faster than Jumbo-Visma who actually did very well to limit their losses having begun the day with only five riders.
Jumbo-Visma lost one rider early and also had to contend with a late puncture for Pascal Eenkhoorn in the final few hundred metres, the other three riders having to slow to wait for him as the team’s time was taken when the fourth rider crossed the line.
Carpenter and Rally Cycling finished way down the rankings, meaning Hayter assumed the blue leader’s jersey and now leads the general classification by six seconds from team mate Dennis, by 16 seconds from Van Aert and by 23 seconds from Alaphilippe.
“I think all six riders gave everything and pulled off a really good team time trial and that’s really satisfying,” said Hayter, who won a silver medal at the recent Olympics in the Madison and whose burgeoning career has now seen him wear the leader’s jersey at every road race he has entered since the Tour of the Algarve in May.
The only one of those races that Hayter actually went on to win was the recent Tour of Norway, and the 22 year-old said it would be “super tough” to win again this week up against the might of Van Aert and Alaphilippe, especially with small six-man teams.
“It’s really hard to control as Jumbo-Visma showed [on Monday, when Van Aert lost the leader’s jersey],” Hayter said. “So we’re up against it. But it’s better to be up 16 seconds than behind 16 seconds.”
Stage two: Carpenter wins from break to take overall lead
Monday, September 6 – Sherford to Exeter, 184km
Ethan Hayter has moved up to third overall after two stages of the Tour of Britain. The British rider, who is in good form having claimed silver in the Madison at the recent Olympics before following that up with victory at the Tour of Norway, claimed second place on a stunning second stage from Sherford to Exeter on Monday, which took in parts of the South Hams and Dartmoor National Park.
Robin Carpenter of Rally Cycling was the surprise winner of the Devon stage of the race. Carpenter was the last survivor from the day’s five-man breakaway, holding off the fast-closing peloton to become the first American ever to win a stage of the Tour of Britain.
Carpenter dropped breakaway companion Jacob Scott (Canyon dhb SunGod) with 25km remaining to take the victory by 33 seconds over British duo Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) and Alex Peters (Swift Carbon Pro Cycling).
The 29 year-old Philadelphian now leads the general classification by 22 seconds from stage one winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), with Hayter a further four seconds back heading into Tuesday’s team time trial in Carmarthenshire. “I was falling apart at the end but I made sure to be falling apart by myself,” Carpenter explained. “In the end leading the overall is great and it’s a big bonus but we’ll see about making it through the team time trial tomorrow with my team-mates.”
Jumbo-Visma will also be anxious to see how they fare in the team time trial. Eyebrows were raised when the Dutch team failed to chase down the breakaway and keep Van Aert in the leader’s jersey. They later explained that having lost Australian Chris Harper to a crash in the opening kilometres they were unable and unwilling to do all the work on their own, especially with Van Aert prioritising the world road championships in Flanders later this month.
“Everyone was looking at us and we couldn’t and didn’t want to do it alone,” explained sports director Frans Maassen. “That’s racing. Wout has to leave this race with a good feeling and he made a good start.
“A good team time trial is crucial for a good classification,” Maassen added. “So it is even more disappointing that Chris is no longer riding. Tomorrow we really wanted to show ourselves. The changes we had to make earlier were already not in our favour. We’ll have to see how far we get with five motivated riders in the team.”
Stage one: Van Aert sprints into lead with opening salvo
Sunday September 5 – Penzance to Bodmin, 180.8km
Wout van Aert sprinted to victory on the opening stage of the Tour of Britain on Sunday.
Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), one of the big favourites for a race being held for the first time since 2019, timed his jump to perfection in Bodmin to win the final uphill battle, with Ethan Hayter the best-placed British rider in fourth.
The Belgian had sat on the wheel of the world champion Julian Alaphilippe – whose Deceuninck-Quick Step team, which includes Mark Cavendish, had done the lion’s share of the work in bringing back the day’s break – before attacking his rival with a few hundred metres to go, holding off the challenge of Nils Eekhoff (DSM), Gonzalo Serrano (Movistar) and Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers). Alaphilippe, who won the race in 2018, finished in a group two seconds behind.
The pair are likely to battle it out for the general classification this week, although both are using the race as preparation for the road world championships in Flanders later this month. Van Aert suggested he would see the lie of the land midway through the race before deciding whether to go all in for the overall. “It’s a really important race and a nice race to do, but on the other hand, I’m here to try and race into the best legs possible going into the worlds,” he said. “We’ll see after stage four what’s possible.”
Monday’s stage is a tough one from Sherford to Exeter, taking in Devon’s South Hams and the Dartmoor National Park. There is then a team time trial in Carmarthenshire before the queen stage of the race, which finishes in Llandudno.
“The team time-trial is important given the reputation the team [Jumbo-Visma] has in time trials,” Van Aert said. “On stage four we have the queen stage, so I’m definitely focusing on that one, and then afterwards we’ll see where my position is in the GC [general classification].”
Hayter, who took silver in the Madison at the Olympics, said he was pleased with fourth after coming down in an early pile-up.
“I was a little bashed up,” he confessed, crediting his team-mates with delivering him to the foot of the final uphill sprint.
“I followed Alaphilippe and when he slowed, I hesitated because I didn’t think I had the legs to go from there, and I got jumped. But hopefully that opens me up for the rest of the week.”