Ethan Hayter put himself at cycling’s top table with an impressive performance at the Tour of Britain that saw him only beaten to overall victory by Wout van Aert in the final metres.
The Jumbo-Visma leader was level with Hayter as the pair opened their decisive final sprint in the knowledge that whoever won was likely to take the overall title due to the bonus seconds on the line. But the Londoner was overpowered by the Belgian, who found his way through the pack to claim the stage victory as well.
Van Aert said: “It’s fantastic to win the general classification as well as the stage. On the line, I saw that Ethan was not on the front row. It’s nice that it went exactly in the right direction today.”
There was no shame in Hayter finishing second overall to the rider his Ineos Grenadiers DS Brett Lancaster described as “the best all-round bike rider in the world at the moment” – and by such a slim margin.
Hayter himself was sanguine: “I think it’s been a really good edition of the Tour of Britain. There have been some really hard days. Van Aert has won four stages so it’s probably fair enough that he wins the GC, to be honest.”
Although Hayter is already a world champion and Olympic silver medallist on the track, 2021 has seen the start of him building a world-class road palmarès. The 22-year-old has been extraordinarily consistent in stage races this year, having now ridden six – winning one, finishing in the top 10 in four others and winning at least one stage in five of them too.
Those wins have come on climbs, in sprints and in the Tour of Britain’s team time trial.
It was the TTT win that put the Londoner into the leader’s jersey after the Tour of Britain’s third stage. However, he ended up losing it the following day when he paced his effort up the punishing ramp of Great Orme and both van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) finished ahead of him. That afternoon the Ineos Grenadiers leader pledged to fight back as he was only two seconds down and there were 40 seconds of bonuses still left on the table. He did exactly that, winning the sprint on stage five and defending for the following two days before the race’s final stage saw his legs give out within sight of the finish line.
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