Van Aert Wins Tour of Britain After Final Stage Win
Wout Van Aert of the Jumbo Visma team powered his way across the line in an imperious eruption of speed to snatch the overall victory away from Ethan Hayter.
The Belgian managed to move ahead of fellow sprinters Mark Cavendish (QuickStep) and Andre Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) in a dramatic late surge to register his fourth stage win in this year’s Tour of Britain.
Beginning the stage with a four second advantage over the eventual victor, and with time bonuses deducted on the finish line, Hayter would have known that if Van Aert won or finished second he needed to be immediately behind him. However, it was not to be for the Englishman, who has more than shown his pedigree throughout this tour. In the final 10km or so he was boxed in and rubbing shoulders with Van Aert, but eventually slipped away from the frontrunners and finished way off the pace in eleventh.
It seemed clear from the outset on the East Coast of Scotland that QuickStep and Jumbo Visma were looking to control the pace of the peloton, with a view to setting up a sprint for Cavendish to win his first stage of the race for the former, while the latter were looking to move Van Aert into contention for the overall win.
Tougher climbs at the start of the race, including the infamous category three, 9.8% average gradient Cairn o’Mount pass, saw a breakaway group quickly develop and disperse. However, the group which included Jokin Murguialday (Caja Rural), Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling), Thomas Gloag and Ben Healy (Trinity Racing), Michał Paluta (Global 6 Cycling), and William Bjergfelt (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) were slowly caught up, with QuickStep committing their whole team in an impressive surge to close the gap with 50km left to ride.
A crash with 6.5km to go saw a number of riders fall and drop out of contention with the peloton. Healy and Carpenter were the last riders to be caught, and as they approached the final few kilometres, it was certainly anyone’s for the taking.
Approaching the last 100 metres it was Hayter who was controlling the front with Cavendish and Van Aert just behind either side. The Belgian showed incredible presence of mind to take advantage of a gap between Andre Greipel and Hayter, and powered through the bunched sprint to narrowly win by just a handful of seconds.
In doing so, Van Aert wrote several entries into the record books; his tally of four stage victories is the joint-most in the modern era of the race. He also became only the sixth rider to have won stages in England, Scotland and Wales, but the first to do so in a single edition.
Upon winning the tour, he said; “I definitely won a lot more than I expected to at this race. I hoped to be there on a few stages, as well as seeing from there what was possible on GC, but taking all these wins is beyond my expectations. We’ve had a really nice week and I think my form is where I want it to be.
“It was really nice to see and really cool for me to explore the enthusiasm of British crowds. There were so many people on the side of the road – I really missed that in the last couple of years because of COVID.”