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.