BORA – hansgrohe’s Danny van Poppel ended Jumbo – Visma’s dominance of the Tour of Britain 2023 as he sprinted to win stage six in Harlow on Friday by the narrowest of margins.
A year to the day since the German team’s last victory in the UK’s leading cycle race, courtesy of Jordi Meeus in Mansfield, van Poppel timed his kick perfectly to pip British rider Ethan Vernon a tyre-width along Third Avenue. Tord Gudmestad (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) finished third, with four-time stage winner Olav Kooij in fourth.
Although their 100% record of stage victories in the race ended in the Essex town, Jumbo – Visma’s Wout van Aert crossed the line in 17th place to retain the overall lead.
Van Poppel said: “The team has given me a lot of trust and I think that’s really important for the sprint. I knew it was a hard finish and you also need some luck, of course. There was space to go through and I took the chance. I know [my] timings and I know I can do it really well; I think I did the perfect jump to win the race today.”
“I always fight for the win but I know it’s hard to beat the big riders like [those] in Jumbo [- Visma] but today I did it. It’s really cool.”
Stage six, the second of the race’s Eastern England doubleheader, rolled out from Southend’s Western Esplanade in the shadow of the city’s historic pier.
It took just two kilometres for three riders to go clear and form the stage’s first breakaway, although the time the trio of Kamil Malecki (Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team) and TDT – Unibet Cycling Team’s Joren Boem and Abram Stockman were to have outfront was clearly numbered when Alex Coleman (Team Flanders-Baloise) bridged across to them approaching the cottages.com sprint at Burnham-on-Crouch at 50.4 kilometres.
After a frantic 30 minutes, Saint Piran seized the initiative, as newly-crowned track world champion Will Tidball took his chance and attacked with 90 kilometres remaining.
This move got the attention of Danny van der Tuuk (Equipo Kern Pharma), Stockman and team-mate Hartthijs De Vries, and a second Saint Piran rider in Jack Rootkin-Gray.
Their momentum was hindered by a number of punctures, which affected van der Tuuk and Tidball’s day. Eventually, only the TDT – Unibet Cycling Team duo were left at the front of the race; the peloton reeled them in shortly after passing through North Weald Bassett with 14 kilometres to go.
A late attack from Belgian rider Dimitri Peyskens (Bingoal WB) proved unsuccessful, following which INEOS Grenadiers and then Jumbo – Visma took turns to showcase themselves at the head of the bunch.
Van Poppel and Vernon (Great Britain) were in prime position to launch their attacks on the finishing straight, sitting in fifth and third wheel respectively, when Uno-X Pro Cycling Team’s Tord Gudmestad kicked off the battle for the line. The pair approached the finish together shoulder to shoulder, with van Poppel denying Vernon the opportunity to become the first British stage winner since Ethan Haytor in Warrington two years ago by one of the smallest margins in race history.
Van Aert retained the leader’s jersey with his three-second lead intact, while team-mate Kooij still tops the cottages.com points and Sportive Breaks best young riders classifications. James Fouche’s lead in the Pinarello king of the mountains is still catchable as the race heads to Gloucestershire for the first of two undulating stages on Saturday.
“Obviously I’m happy that I’m still in the leader’s jersey,” said van Aert. “You could see we wanted more today – we wanted the stage again with Olav – but we didn’t succeed. It’s a good reminder that it’s not so easy to win the race.
“Tomorrow I’ll stay calm for as long as possible because there will be attacks from everywhere. Three seconds is still nothing, everybody is a threat for GC, and I’m curious to see how the race will unfold.”