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.
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.