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The two heavyweights of professional cycling dropped Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) in the final meters of an uphill sprint to the finish on the 210km “queen stage,” from Aberaeron to Great Orme, Llandudno.
This is van Aert’s second win in this edition of the Tour of Britain. He won stage 1 — also an uphill sprint — two seconds ahead of Alaphilippe.
“It was a super hard finish — the first part of the climb was really steep, probably a bit too steep for a guy like me, but I knew if I could hang on there I would have my chance,” said van Aert. “Taking two stage wins here, like this, at 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.”
With the bonus seconds and the margin at the finish, van Aert took control of race leadership from Ethan Hayer (Ineos Grenadiers) while Alaphilippe now sits in third overall, nine seconds back of Hayter.
How it happened
A break of six had gotten away and with 100km to go, a gap of four minutes separated them from the main bunch, including the race leader.
Tim Declercq, Davide Ballerini, and Yves Lampaert (all Deceuninck-Quick-Step) were on the front of the chasing group, with Mark Cavendish lending a hand in sheltering world champion Julian Alaphilipe.
Marc Soler (Movistar Team) lead a group of three off the front, and they connected with the six on the front — with lead that had dwindled to just 20 seconds — and the nine raced over the rolling terrain, chased by the “Wolfpack.”
Andre Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) came to the front of the second group to help with the pursuit as soon as the gap had again stretched out to more than 40 seconds, in fast, cross-tailwind conditions.
Soler, the only WorldTour level rider of the nine on the front was content to let the others do all the work.
Silvan Dillier (Alpecin Fenix), the Swiss road racing champion, attacked the main group at 47km and slipped off the front. Rory Townsend (Canyon-SunGod) — second in points classification — and Yves Lampaert went after Dillier a few moments later.
This attack bridged the peloton and the race came back together at 40km to go. But just 2km after the catch was made, Townsend tried to go off the front again. This attempt came to nothing and there was again a single group on the road for a few more kilometers.
The attacks went again and three more riders went off the front to nab sprint points at the intermediate check. Max Kanter (team DSM) won this dash, denying Mauro Schmid (Qhubeka-NextHash) maximum points. Schmid won the “Strade Bianche” stage of the 2021 Giro d’Italia.
These three stretched their lead to 23 seconds, but it looked to be allowed by Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) leading the chase, backed by Ineos Grenadiers, and Deceuninck-Quick-Step.
Kater gave up his work in the break at 20km to go, and on one of the many rolling hills, the race came back together inside of 16km.
Movistar Team, Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma, and Deceuninck-Quick-Step controlled the pace at the front of the chaotic peloton.
Cavendish sat on Ballerini’s wheel, followed by Alaphilippe. They were shadowed by Arkéa-Samsic for a time before Team DSM came to the front, alongside the 2021 Tour de France green-jersey-winner.
Ineos Grenadiers brought Hayter up to the front of the race to protect his lead into the final 10km.
A small climb at 7km to go thinned the front and Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar Team) saw an opportunity to try to get the stage win. He attacked on the small climb, and immediately opened up a gap which expanded to 11 seconds.
Michał Kwiatkowski dragged Rohan Dennis (Ineos Grenadiers) and Hayter after the 22-year-old American, and they were quickly joined by Lampaert and Alaphilippe. This pace uphill was too much for Jorgenson, and he was absorbed inside of 4km.
Mikkel Honoré and Hayter were momentarily gapped by van Aert, Woods, and Alaphilippe. Van Aert was forced to the front for several hundred meters, and the cat-and-mouse allowed Honoré and Hayter to get back on the wheels at the front.
Honoré launched an attack around a tight, right bend, trying to catapult teammate Alaphilippe up the road. Van Aert covered this, and Woods then launched an attack.
This move dropped Hayter and Honoré, and the world champion was left on the front.
Woods could not sustain the effort, as Alaphilippe lead into the final 300m. Van Aert hauled his big frame from Alaphilippe’s wheels and came around him in the final meter of the race.
2021 Tour of Britain stage 4 Results
- Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), 5:04:22
- Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), at s.t.
- Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), at :01
- Mikkel Frølich Honoré (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), at :04
- Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), at :08
- Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), at :13
- Kristian Sbaragli (Alpecin-Fenix), at :16
- Simon Clarke (Qhubeka-NextHash), at s.t.
- Sergio Roman Martín (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), at :27
- Nicolas Roche (Team DSM), at :29
2021 Tour of Britain General Classification
- Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), 14:44:49
- Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), at :02
- Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), at :11