Images courtesy of SWpix unless otherwise stated
SUNDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2021
WOUT VAN AERT WINS THE AJ BELL TOUR OF BRITAIN
Wout van Aert was crowned the 2021 AJ Bell Tour of Britain champion at the death on Sunday after he sprinted to win the final stage in Aberdeen.
The Team Jumbo – Visma rider’s victory meant that he claimed the 10 bonus seconds available on the line and, with INEOS Greandiers’ overnight race leader Ethan Hayter placing outside the top 10, van Aert was able to turn a four-second deficit on the young Briton into a six-second advantage. Reigning world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) completed the final podium.
Van Aert’s debut appearance in the AJ Bell Tour of Britain was history-making: his tally of four stage victories is the joint-most in the modern incarnation 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.
“It was a really fast finish,” said van Aert. “It was definitely important to have the right position because you couldn’t make up too many places in the final kilometres. I needed all of my guys to close the gap to the breakaway today – I had to do the sprint on my own but after their impressive work it was a pleasure to finish it off.
“George [Bennett] and the guys are used to pulling on a flat stage like this, but it was really impressive to see their commitment to close that breakaway down, because they were really strong in the end. You never win alone so it was definitely a big team performance.
“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.”
Six riders were part of the day’s breakaway heading up the road soon after the start from Stonehaven as the race headed through packed crowds on the Category One ŠKODA King of the Mountains climb of Cairn o’Mount head by Stage Two winner Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling).
With several teams eyeing either the stage win or the bonus seconds on Aberdeen’s beach front Esplanade however the break was never going to be allowed the freedom to succeed. Ultimately it was Carpenter and Irish champion Ben Healy (TRINITY Racing) that survived the longest, before being caught in the outskirts of Aberdeen setting up the expected sprint finish.
A last ditch effort by Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation) came to nothing as a strong tailwind swept the peloton along the Esplanade. Alaphilippe led out the sprint for Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) before André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) hit the front, with van Aert sweeping past them both to take the stage and overall victory.
Hayter came in eleventh to lose his AJ Bell leader’s jersey, his worst finish of the week, but kept the Sportsbreaks.com Points jersey. Second overall meant he was the highest place British rider ahead of Mark Donovan (Team DSM), who finished ninth overall, and James Shaw (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling), in fourteenth.
Speaking after the race Ethan Hayter said; “The race has exceeded expectations for me, and I think a lot of people as well, so I couldn’t have asked for any better really. Well I could have, if Van Aert didn’t win, but other than that!
“We were concerned that it would all kick off on Cairn o’Mount, but in the end we just rode up it because there was a big headwind.
“It was funny – we rode up the climb all next to each other and I thought it was quite cool and fun at the same time. We were kind of keeping an eye on each other! It was quite controlled, so it was quite an easy day as things go.”
Fellow Brit Jacob Scott (Canyon dhb SunGod) completed a remarkable week having held both the ŠKODA King of the Mountains and Eisberg Sprints jerseys since Stage One in Bodmin, and was rewarded by his efforts by being presented with the Overall Combativity Award for the race in Aberdeen.
The AJ Bell Tour of Britain will return to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire in September 2022 for the opening stage of next year’s race as a part of Scotland’s continuing commitment to hosting world-class racing ahead of the 2023 UCI Cycling Worlds in the country.
General Classification after Stage 8
SUNDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2021
PASCAL EENKHORN MEETS XANDER GRAHAM AT FINAL STAGE OF AJ BELL TOUR OF BRITAIN
Twelve-year-old Scottish cyclist Xander Graham has become the sensation of the AJ Bell Tour of Britain after his starring role during Stage Seven of the race on Saturday (11 September) when he rode alongside the breakaway and took a bIdon from Jumbo Visma’s Pascal Eenkhoorn mid-race.
The moment was caught live on television and shown around the world, with the video receiving more than a million views by Sunday lunchtime on the AJ Bell Tour of Britain Twitter account.
Eenkhorn was part of a five-rider breakaway near the end of the stage, alongside eventual winner Yves Lampaert, handing his bidon to Xander while he rode alongside them on the pavement as they raced towards the finish in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh.
Xander and his parents were guests of race sponsors Eisberg, the UK’s leading alcohol free wine brand, at the Stonehaven start of the final stage of the race, meeting Pascal Eenkhoorn and the rest of the Jumbo Visma team, and joining them on the pre-race podium to be presented to the crowd.
“It was amazing to be up close so I really enjoyed it” said Xander Graham. “I’ve got a lot of messages on social media and a lot of reposts on people’s stories as well.”
Commenting on the experience, Xander’s Dad, Martin, said; “It’s been an incredible response from Pascal and with Xander riding alongside them yesterday. It’s Xander’s dream to be a professional cyclist but to be actually riding in the Tour in his hometown was just a really spectacular moment for us all.”
Speaking at the Stonehaven start, Jumbo Visma rider Pascal Eenkhoorn said; “We were in the final and he was kind of attacking us on the pavement. Then I was the one doing my pull and I was drinking from my bottle and we passed him. I looked at him and I was nodding my head like you want the bottle? He was like ‘Yes’ so I gave him it and he immediately took it.
“We were riding fast but he was completely sprinting and he looks like a talented kid.”
SATURDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 2021
YVES LAMPAERT TAKES EDINBURGH STAGE WIN IN AJ BELL TOUR OF BRITAIN
Belgian rider Yves Lampaert took Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s first victory of the AJ Bell Tour of Britain in Edinburgh on Saturday at the end of a stage dominated by a six-man breakaway group.
Lampaert outsprinted Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar Team) and Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling’s Matt Gibson in the world-famous Holyrood Park after the trio broke away on the outskirts of the Scottish capital.
INEOS Grenadiers rider Ethan Hayter finished safely within the peloton to retain his overall lead and move to within a day of becoming the first British winner of the national tour in five years. Hayter has also sealed the Sportsbreaks.com Points jersey with an insurmountable lead going into the final stage, providing he finishes the race.
“It was a good day all round because we kept the jersey and have one day left to go. Having a strong team is probably more important than being a strong rider at the end of the day like today – Richie [Porte] and Owain [Doull] have ridden on the front for the past two days, which is pretty impressive,” said Ethan Hayter speaking after the stage finish.
“It’s probably going to kick off tomorrow, it always does on the last day of a stage race. I’ll do my best to beat Wout if it does come to a sprint.”
Commenting after his win, Yves Lampaert said; “It was quite nervy. There were three of us in the lead, so it’s always difficult to finish it off. But I took the wheel of Gibson – I heard on the radio that he was quite fast. I did quite a long sprint; I started at 250 [metres] to go and I held it to the line.
“I’m really happy. I’ve worked to a make a lot of team victories but today I could finish it off for myself. That’s a huge relief. Every victory has a special place in my heart, and it’s not that I win every week, so I’m really happy.”
Lampaert, Jorgenson and Gibson had been part of a six-rider group that broke away early on the stage from Hawick, along with Lampaert’s Deceuninck – Quick-Step teammate Davide Ballerini, Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo Visma), and TRINITY Racing’s Christopher Blevins.
The sextet built a lead of nearly 10 minutes and were allowed their head coming into Edinburgh as INEOS Grenadiers controlled the gap to ensure the race didn’t come back together and that Wout van Aert (Jumbo Visma) couldn’t collect any time bonuses to threaten Hayter’s lead.
Blevins was the first to be distanced with 20 kilometres to go on an unclassified climb out of Ford before Lampaert attacked with 8.5 kilometres to go splitting the group. Jorgenson reacted first to get onto the former Belgian champion’s wheel with Gibson putting in a concerted effort to then get across to the pair reaching them with five kilometres remaining.
The trio then worked well to distance Eenkhoorn and Ballerini but coming into Holyrood Park it was the Ribble Weldtite rider on the front with his two World Tour rivals using their experience to force Gibson to lead out the sprint to the line.
Jacob Scott (Canyon dhb SunGod) retains both the ŠKODA King of the Mountains and Eisberg Sprints jerseys and will win both providing he finishes Sunday’s stage.
The AJ Bell Tour of Britain concludes with Stage Eight from Stonehaven to Aberdeen over 173 kilometres (107.6 miles) including the famous ŠKODA King of the Mountains climb of Cairn o’Mount early in the stage plus intermediate Eisberg Sprints, with their time bonuses, at Finzean, Aboyne, and Ballater.
General Classification after Stage 7
FRIDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 2021
WOUT VAN AERT STRIKES BACK AT GATESHEAD FINISH OF AJ BELL TOUR OF BRITAIN
A day after losing the AJ Bell Tour of Britain race lead, Belgian star Wout van Aert struck back by winning stage six in the shadow of the Angel of the North sculpture in Gateshead.
The Belgian national champion sprinted home ahead of Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) as a 10-rider group contested the finish after a thrilling finale on the roads into Gateshead that saw multiple riders trying to go clear for the stage victory.
Hayter retains his race lead, although now trimmed to just four seconds over van Aert [Team Jumbo Visma] thanks to the time bonus at the finish line, with Alaphilippe slipping back slightly to plus 21 seconds.
“It’s great to keep the jersey,” said Ethan Hayter. “The gap is now four seconds so if he [van Aert] wins the race on time bonuses there’s not much we can do about it. I’m happy to be leading the Tour of Britain still, it’s amazing.
“It all kicked off with about 15 kilometres to go on that climb and actually I wasn’t playing it cool. I was on the limit, but Carlos [Rodriguez] kind of saved me because otherwise I would’ve been open to a lot more attacks. He was closing stuff and setting a good tempo, and, in the end, it put everyone off attacking, especially in the last couple of kilometres.
“To keep the jersey and be second on the stage is a very good result for me and I’m looking forward to the next two days.”
The group of ten had formed as an earlier breakaway, containing Mark Cavendish and Deceuninck – Quick-Step team-mate Tim Declercq, was caught and James Shaw (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling) attacked, with first Matteo Jorgensen (Movistar) and then eight others following, including all of the overall contenders.
Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) put in a concerted effort on one of the many small climbs littering the final ten kilometres, building a 15 second advantage which was steadily eroded before Shaw and Mikkel Honoré (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) each made their own efforts to go clear.
With a second group of just over 20 riders closing on them rapidly, Jorgensen kept the pace high, aided by INEOS’ Carlos Rodriguez before Honoré opened up the sprint to lead out Alaphilippe. On the gradual drag up to the line however the fast finishers of van Aert and Hayter could come around the World champion under the watchful guise of the Angel of the North.
Speaking after the race, Wout van Aert said; “It was a nice course with a nice opportunity in the end – a steep kicker with 14 kilometres to go. I thought it would be nice to make the race a bit harder and maybe even surprise some other guys, but we ended up with all the main favourites in the front group. From then on it was quite clear for me that it would be a sprint because Ethan [Hayter] and the also the guy from Movistar [Matteo Jorgenson] had a team-mate in the group who would keep it together.
“I’m focusing on this race and the opportunities we will have here, so I think for sure it has been good preparation for the Worlds. But for now I’m more focused on the racing day by day. It will all come down to the bonus seconds. Maybe there will be some other opportunities along the way, so we need to be focused and hopefully we can try something again.”
Hayter retains the Sportsbreaks.com Points jersey thanks to his string of top five results this week while Jacob Scott (Canyon dhb SunGod) keeps both of the ŠKODA King of the Mountains and Eisberg Sprints jerseys for a sixth consecutive day, and now only needs to finish the AJ Bell Tour of Britain to retain his ŠKODA jersey.
The event moves to Scotland for the final two stages of the 2021 race. Saturday (11 September) sees a 194.8-kilometre (121.1-mile) Stage Seven from Hawick to Edinburgh with a picturesque route through the Scottish Borders before the AJ Bell Tour of Britain concludes with Stage Eight from Stonehaven to Aberdeen over 173 kilometres (107.6 miles) including the famous climb of Cairn o’Mount.
General Classification after Stage 6
THURSDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 2021
ETHAN HAYTER WINS AJ BELL TOUR OF BRITAIN STAGE FIVE IN WARRINGTON TO TAKE RACE LEAD
INEOS Grenadiers’ British rider Ethan Hayter sprinted to win stage five of the 2021 AJ Bell Tour of Britain outside Warrington’s historic Golden Gates to retake the overall race lead on Thursday.
Hayter sprinted home ahead of European Champion Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Qhubeka NextHash) and Dan McLay (Team Arkéa Samsic) despite losing lead out man Owain Doull to a final corner crash on greasy roads following an earlier heavy rain shower.
Victory in Warrington gives Hayter an eight-second advantage over Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo Visma) with three stages remaining, and almost 20 seconds back to World champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step).
“The hard work was done before the last kilometre to be honest,” said Ethan Hayter speaking afterwards. “The team were amazing and from about 20 kilometres to go we were there or thereabouts and out of trouble. The last 10 kilometres got twisty with a tailwind. We were in the perfect place really. In the last corner, with 700 metres to go, a couple guys came up on the inside and I knew I just had to get round it safely really. I didn’t want to be right at the front, either, because it was still quite a long way to go. I saw [Owain] Doull slowly drifting and I was like ‘this isn’t good’ and then he crashed.
“His bike started drifting as well and you are meant to look where you are going – when you look at something you end up riding into it. I just squeezed between the bike and the barrier and you get a rush of adrenaline. Then I just screamed on the radio for [Michal] Kwiato to go flat out. I didn’t actually get a great run at the finish, I couldn’t quite believe the situation but when I did, I put it in my biggest gear, went as hard as I could and it was enough.
“I woke up this morning and it was actually the best I had felt all race so it clearly worked out in the end. I had a cold last week so I came into it not feeling amazing and obviously everyone knows Wout van Aert won on the Champs-Elysees so he is one of the fastest guys. Then there’s Cav, Nizzolo and all these people. I took six bonus seconds the other day by winning the sprint there and obviously it was a completely different stage, so I knew there was a chance.
“I think the time bonuses can still come into play and there’s a lot of hard racing still to go. It might not come down to time bonuses in the end; there could be big gaps tomorrow and a couple of the days after that, so it’s going to be interesting. We will just do what we can.”
Stage Five rolled out from the world-leading biotechnology campus of Alderley Park in Cheshire with a five-rider break soon forming containing Jacob Scott (Canyon dhb SunGod) as he once again dominated the points scoring in the ŠKODA King of the Mountains and Eisberg Sprints competitions which he continues to lead.
The final three members of the break – Dan Bigham (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling), Christopher Blevins (TRINITY Racing), and Nickolas Zukowsky (Rally Cycling) – lasted well into Warrington and were only with only 1.8 kilometres of racing remaining.
INEOS Grenadiers then took control and despite Doull sliding out on the final turn they managed to keep control through Kwiatowski to set up Hayter for his first AJ Bell Tour of Britain stage win and to extend his impressive run that has seen him finish in the top 10 on eight of his previous road stages in the Tour.
The sixth stage of the AJ Bell Tour of Britain crosses the Pennines from Carlisle to Gateshead over 198 kilometres (123.1 miles), with the finish alongside Sir Antony Gormley’s world-famous Angel of the North. With three first category ŠKODA King of the Mountains climbs – at Hartside, Killhope Cross and Burtree Fell – during the route through Cumbria, County Durham and Northumberland it could be another day where the overall lead changes hands.
General Classification after Stage 5
WEDNESDAY 9 SEPTEMBER 2021
WOUT VAN AERT PIPS JULIAN ALAPHILIPPE TO WIN ATOP THE GREAT ORME
Wout van Aert moved back into the AJ Bell Tour of Britain race lead after out-sprinting reigning world champion Julian Alaphilippe atop the Great Orme, Llandudno, on Wednesday.
The duo finished on the same time with Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) one second further back, while overnight leader Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) slipped back to second place overall – just two seconds in arrears on van Aert – after a great fightback in the final kilometre from the Brit.
“It was a super hard finish especially the first part of the climb was really steep, probably a bit too steep for a guy like me. I knew if I could hang on there I would have my chance,” said van Aert afterwards. “It’s nice for the head to take a victory, not only because you beat a guy like Julian in a tight finish like that , but also you’re here at bike races to win , and at least I am. So it’s just really nice and I think it’s kind of a special finish here so that just makes me proud.”
Van Aert now enjoys a two second lead on Hayter with Alaphilippe and his Deceuninck – Quick-Step team-mate Mikkel Honoré at 11 and 21 seconds respectively, before a dangerous trio of riders in Woods, Rohan Dennis (INEOS Grenadiers) and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) all within one minute.
“Our plan today was clear, we just wanted to set me up to go for the stage win and everyone was committed to that. Obviously I’m feeling good. Taking two stage wins here, like this, the Tour of Britain is already a big success but with the team we have now and how my legs feel it is still a possibility to take the overall,” continued van Aert.
“With only the stage wins there is still 40 bonus seconds coming so that’s way more than the gap I have now so I need to be ready at every moment of the race and I probably need to do a few sprints because Hayter and I guess Alaphilippe will be my main opponents in GC and are both fast guys so we will see.”
Ethan Hayter retains the Sportsbreaks.com Points jersey thanks to finishing each stage so far in the top five while Jacob Scott (Canyon dhb SunGod) extended his lead in both the ŠKODA King of the Mountains and Eisberg Sprints classifications having once again infiltrated a breakaway.
The break, containing Scott and five others, was kept on a tight leash by the likes of Deceuninck – Quick-Step and Jumbo Visma as the race made its way north alongside the Ceredigion coast as the AJ Bell Tour of Britain basked in a third straight day of sunshine and high temperatures.
Into the Snowdonia National Park and several other riders, including Movistar’s Marc Soler, bridged across but with the likes of van Aert and Alaphilippe determined to do battle on the Great Orme their days were numbered.
Matteo Jorgensen (Movistar Team) initiated the fireworks on the ascent of the Marine Drive toll road around the Great Orme’s perimeter but was caught by the Jumbo Visma led front group at two kilometres to go.
As the punishing 23% gradient alongside the Great Orme’s tramway took its toll it was Woods and Alaphilippe that went clear but first van Aert and then Hayter dragged themselves back into content as the slopes eased. Honoré then started the final sprint with van Aert jumping onto his wheel before edging out Alaphilippe as the two lunged for the line at the summit complex.
Stage Five sees the peloton heading to Cheshire for a 152.2-kilometre (94.6-mile) stages that begins from the world-leading biotech campus of Alderley Park and finishes outside the famous Golden Gates in Warrington town centre. In a stage of two halves the race visits the Cheshire Peak District with a succession of climbs between Congleton and Adlington before a flat run in to Warrington, with bonus seconds at Eisberg Sprints in Wilmslow and Chelford during the closing stages likely to be fiercely contested.
General Classification after Stage 4
TUESDAY 8 SEPTEMBER 2021
INEOS GRENADIERS WIN THE AJ BELL TOUR OF BRITAIN TEAM TIME TRIAL IN CARMARTHENSHIRE
INEOS Grenadiers produced an unstoppable ride to win the AJ Bell Tour of Britain’s Carmarthenshire team time trial stage on Tuesday, a result that moves Londoner Ethan Hayter into the race lead after three days.
The British squad posted a time of 20’22” for the 18.2-kilometre course from Llandeilo to the National Botanic Garden of Wales, finishing 17.5 seconds faster than runners up Deceuninck – Quick-Step.
Hayter takes a six-second lead over team-mate Rohan Dennis with stage one winner Wout van Aert a further 10 seconds in arrears, while overnight leader Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling) drops to 12th overall, now one minute six seconds down.
“It’s amazing,” said Hayter after the stage. “I’ve ended up in a few leader’s jerseys in the last few races now and it makes the racing great. You know to win the team time-trial is a really nice way to do it.
“Rohan [Dennis] and Kwiato [Michal Kwiatkowski] were the most experienced, and obviously guys like Richie [Porte] have done time trials hundreds of times so they took us out and started us as we meant to go on. It was quite a tough start, then everyone just did short turns and did what they could to hold the speed. Then we hit the last climb pretty hard and held it to the finish.”
Behind INEOS Grenadiers and Deceuninck – Quick-Step were a further three UCI World Tour teams in Team Jumbo Visma, Israel Start-Up Nation, and Team DSM, plus Alpecin Fenix as the only other teams within a minute of the leaders.
With Stage Three being a team time trial there was no change in the other classifications with Hayter also holding the Sportsbreaks.com Points jersey while Canyon dhb SunGod rider Jacob Scott holds both the ŠKODA King of the Mountains and Eisberg Sprints jerseys.
The race continues in Wales on Wednesday 8 September with Stage Four from Aberaeron on the Ceredigion coast to the Great Orme above Llandudno. The 210-kilometre (130.6-mile) stage ends with a spectacular ascent of the Great Orme’s Marine Drive toll road before tackling the 1.9km, 9.8% average climb that runs parallel to the famous tramway up to the finish.
General Classification after Stage 3
MONDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 2021
ROBIN CARPENTER ON TOP OF THE WORLD IN DEVON
Monday’s AJ Bell Tour of Britain stage in Devon was anything but a rainy day for Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling) as the 29-year old Philadelphian rode into the race lead with an impressive solo victory in Exeter city centre as the race bathed in the south west sunshine.
Carpenter dropped breakaway companion Jacob Scott (Canyon dhb SunGod) with 25 kilometres remaining to take the victory by 33 seconds over British duo Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) and Alex Peters (Swift Carbon Pro Cycling). Stage One winner Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo – Visma) came home safely within the same group and now sits 22 seconds behind Carpenter, who is the first American rider to both lead the AJ Bell Tour of Britain and to win a stage of the race.
“We had 40k to go, we had crested both of the last KoMs, we still had five minutes and there was tonnes of downhill,” said Carpenter. “It seemed like a tailwind too so at that point there’s no chance to be caught. I was falling apart at the end but I made sure to be falling apart by myself.
“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.
“We were going to hit it hard anyway, We’ve got a couple of guys who are well suited to maybe go for the overall so we’ll do our best and we’ll see what happens but it’s going to be a challenge for sure.”
Carpenter was part of a five-rider move with Scott, plus Nicolas Sessler (Global 6 Cycling), Will Bjergfelt (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) and Leon Mazzone (Saint Piran). The latter pair were distanced on the ŠKODA King of the Mountains climb of Rundlestone above Tavistock, with Sessler the next to go before Carpenter shed Scott on one of the numerous small climbs littering the stage.
With an advantage of more than four minutes as he powered on alone victory on Queen Street in Exeter looked assured but Jumbo – Visma took control and gradually brought Carpenter’s advantage down to under a minute. A strong lead out in the final kilometre from INEOS Grenadiers’ Michal Kwiatkowski for team-mate Hayter brought the 55-rider main group close but not enough to prevent Carpenter taking the overall lead.
Hayter did move into the Sportsbreaks.com Points jersey while Jacob Scott extended his lead in both the ŠKODA King of the Mountains and Eisberg Sprints classifications.
The race moves to Wales for Stage Three (Tuesday 7 September) as the 18 teams face an 18.2 kilometre time trial between Llandeilo and the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire. Van Aert has already spoken of the importance of the stage against the clock for his Jumbo Visma team who won the modern Tour of Britain’s only previous team time trial stage in 2018.
General Classification after Stage Two, Sherford to Exeter
Stage 1 Penzance to Bodmin
SUNDAY 5 SEPTEMBER 2021
WOUT VAN AERT WINS OPENING STAGE OF AJ BELL TOUR OF BRITAIN IN BODMIN
Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo – Visma) sprinted to victory in the opening stage of the AJ Bell Tour of Britain heading home Nils Eekhoff (Team DSM) and Gonzalo Serrano (Movistar Team).
Van Aert followed a Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) attack with 500 metres go before jumping off his wheel with less than 300 metres remaining to open up his sprint which couldn’t be matched on the St Nicholas Street climb. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) had buried himself in the services of teammate Alaphilippe before pulling off with two kilometres to go, leaving INEOS Grenadiers to lead the race out onto the final sting in the tail in Bodmin but it was ultimately Alaphilippe and van Aert dictating matters.
With the stage victory – on his AJ Bell Tour of Britain debut – van Aert moves into the race lead with a four-second advantage over Eekhoff with Serrano a further two seconds in arrears. Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) is the top Brit in fourth overall, the same spot as his Stage One finishing position.
Speaking after the stage, Wout van Aert said; “Being here it was almost overwhelming seeing the amount if crowds at the side of the roads, we have been missing this in the last two years and it’s nice to see people outside again and especially in a crowd together, it’s nice to see people are so crazy about cycling, it makes it more beautiful when we win.
“It was a tough stage. It was good for me to adapt to these kind of roads and to get used to them. The stage was controlled and yeah racing, high speeds and obviously on a first day of a race everybody is still fresh so it was a big battle to be at the front for the sprint. My teammates helped me secure a good position and I think I did the right timing in the sprint.”
Looking ahead to the remaining seven days van Aert identified the AJ Bell Tour of Britain’s two Welsh stages on Tuesday and Wednesday as key to his ambitions for the week.
“The team time-trial is obviously a really important event here for the reputation the team has in time trials. It will be important for the GC as well and I think on stage four we have the queen stage with a super hard finish so I’m definitely focussing on that one, and then afterwards we’ll see where my position is in the GC before the last four stages.
“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. We’ll see after stage four what’s good and what’s possible.”
While van Aert also takes the Sportsbreaks.com Points jersey, it was Jacob Scott (Canyon dhb SunGod) who started the defence of his 2019 ŠKODA King of the Mountains by infiltrating the day’s breakaway to come home with both the climbers’ jersey and the red Eisberg Sprints jersey.
Scott, along with fellow Brits Max Walker (TRINITY Racing) and Oliver Stockwell (Great Britain national team), had kept the Cornish crowds entertained alongside South Africa’s Nic Dlamini (Team Qhubeka NextHash) and US National champion Joey Rosskopf (Rally Cycling) – the latter celebrating his birthday – by sweeping up all of the primes on route until eventually being swept up by the peloton on the way to Bodmin.
As well as the victory van Aert was also able to enjoy Cornwall as the AJ Bell Tour of Britain held its first ever stage in the county, and the south west scenery has provided a hit with the Jumbo Visma rider.
“It’s really beautiful. Unfortunately today was quite grey , but yesterday the sun was out and we did a really nice ride close to our hotel and actually I was surprised about the nature and yeah it’s a holiday destination for me. I didn’t know much about the UK so hopefully I’ll start to learn more.”
The race in the south west on Stage Two (Monday 6 September) with a 183.9-kilometre (114.4-mile) stage from Sherford to Exeter, taking in Devon’s South Hams and the Dartmoor National Park.
The AJ Bell Tour of Britain is sponsored by AJ Bell, one of the UK’s leading online investment platforms, helping people invest for the long term via ISAs, pensions and general investment accounts. It has a rich history of supporting elite level sport including badminton, cricket, rugby, squash and triathlon.
General Classification after Stage One, Penzance to Bodmin