TOUR OF BRITAIN 2021 Van Aert sprints to victory

Wout van Aert wins Stage One in Bodmin image courtesy SWpix

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) in Cornwall.

Olympic silver medallist 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 – Belgian 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.

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 tomorrow 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 26-year-old Belgian champion.

“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 continues in the south west today with Stage Two, a 183.9-kilometre (114.4-mile) stage from Sherford to Exeter, taking in Devon’s South Hams and the Dartmoor National Park.

STAGE WINNER Wout van Aert celebrates crossing the Cornish finishing line yesterday image courtesy SWpix

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