Jumbo-Visma might have continued their clean sweep of the Tour of Britain with a fifth stage win in a row on Thursday, but after Olav Kooij‘s quartet of sprint wins, few would’ve predicted a solo win on the flat stage to Felixstowe.
With the break caught and the peloton all together on the final run to the finish, the Dutch squad found themselves in a familiar position of control at the head of the peloton, ready to set up another Kooij victory.
Taking them from the 3km to 1km marks were Nathan Van Hooydonck and Eduardo Affini, dragging the group along for one last blast to the line, led out by Wout van Aert. But there would be no lead-out, with Kooij instead letting the wheel go on the final left-hander as Van Aert sped away.
The few seconds of hesitation from the likes of Bora-Hansgrohe, Movistar, and Ineos Grenadiers behind Kooij was enough to let Van Aert build enough of a lead to stay away for the win – powered at over 800 watts, mind – and take the race lead by three seconds.
“Yesterday evening we looked at the final corners talking about the lead-out. At first, it came up as a joke/idea but then we started to think about it,” Van Aert said after the finish. “We knew that even if someone responded immediately the bunch would still be stretched out and Olav would have a good chance of winning the sprint.
“We tried something else, and I think that’s a nice thing about cycling – enough times it’s boring and you can [predict] what will happen and it’s nice to spice things up.
“I’m feeling really happy, of course. It’s always tricky to make a plan like that and if you can execute it like this it gives a lot of satisfaction. Another great day for the team and I’m really proud of this one.”
Believe it or not, Jumbo-Visma’s fifth win of the week – and 57th of 2023 – is only Van Aert’s third of the season. With a three-second lead in a race with no time bonuses and only the final stage featuring any major hills, he’s now on track to repeat the overall victory he claimed two years ago.
“This race has no bonuses so you can even say it’s a big margin. Now people will have to drop me to get the lead in the overall so it’s a good situation heading into the last weekend,” Van Aert said, before Kooij confirmed that the team would be working for his superstar lead-out man on the final two stages.
“I’m really happy that he helped me win those four and I’m really happy to do something like this as a team today,” the 21-year-old said. “We also knew that Wout…