Wout van Aert became only the third rider in history to win the Tour of Britain twice after withstanding multiple attacks in Sunday’s dramatic final stage in South Wales.
The Jumbo – Visma rider finished second in Caerphilly, 11 seconds behind stage winner Carlos Rodriguez (INEOS Grenadiers), who at one point looked set to wrestle victory away from him at the death.
Having previously claimed overall victory in the race in 2021, van Aert joins Edvald Boasson Hagen (2009 and 2015) and Lars Boom (2011 and 2017) as a two-time Tour of Britain champion.
The Belgian star won the race by three seconds over Tobias Johannessen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team, runner-up), Damien Howson (Q36.5 Pro Cycling, third), and Rodriguez’s team-mate Magnus Sheffield (fourth) and the Sportive Breaks Best Young Rider as the Welsh crowds flocked to the roadside for the final stage.
“It feels great” said van Aert after the stage. “We’ve had such an amazing week as a team, starting off with five stage wins in a row, It’s pretty incredible. From then on it was a lot of pressure on us in this race, but we managed to control every stage basically. So we’re super proud, especially to finish off that teamwork.
“It was a super tough stage with the course this year, the weekend was really decisive and we went really all in for the GC. Today the climbs were a bit longer which is tricky for me especially compared with riders like Rodriguez and [Stevie] Williams who are 20kg lighter than me. I had to stay calm and trust my teammates. I really had to think a lot in that final.”
Attacks came from the start proper and a breakaway of six riders; Pinarello King of the Mountains James Fouche, breakaway extraordinaire Abram Stockman (TDT – Unibet) Ollie Wood (Great Britain), Casper Van Uden (Team dsm firmenrich), Max Walker (TRINITY Racing) and Johan Meens (Bingoal WB) went clear after 10 kilometres.
Fouche summited the first category Pinarello King of the Mountains climb of Rhigos in the lead and extended his lead in the classification, ending the day with a 19-point lead over stage winner Rodriguez.
The fireworks began on the Bryn Du climb above Aberdare when INEOS Grenadiers set a furious pace, decimating the peloton and isolating van Aert from his teammates.
Rodriguez attacked mid-way up the climb, the Spanish rider taking Stephen Williams (Great Britain) with him over the top of Bryn Du and building a solid advantage on the climb through St Gwynno Forest.
Movistar and Jumbo-Visma organised and took charge on the front of the group in chase of the two breakaway riders at 32.5km to go with the break at 1:25 ahead, but with the flat run in to Caerphilly the advantage rapidly decreased to 10 seconds on the first ascent of Caerphilly Mountain.
That first climb saw Williams distanced by Rodriguez before being swallowed up by the chasers with attacks from riders in the second group eating into the INEOS rider’s advantage particularly on the run back through Caerphilly to the base of the climb.
More attacks came from the chase group including an acceleration from van Aert at five kilometres to go, but none would ever completely close the gap on Rodriguez who finished alone in the shadow of Caerphilly castle with an 11-second advantage.
“The plan was to go on the climb with 50km to go and to force the other teams to chase,” said Rodriguez. “We had Magnus [Sheffield] in a good position so that he just had to follow the wheels and eventually I could get the victory.
“Losing Tom [Pidcock] was a big setback for us but we had to keep trying and keep believing. We have a good team and we had to try win the GC or the stage.”
Commenting on the Welsh stage of the Tour of Britain Deputy Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Dawn Bowden, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to welcome the Tour of Britain back again this year and particularly for a fantastic final stage. Wales’ credentials for hosting cycling events is now well-established.
“The Tour of Britain and Women’s Tour are the perfect showcase for our landscape as well as the welcome we provide to the competitors and spectators. Congratulations to Wout van Aert and to all involved in organising the event. I hope that seeing some of the world’s best riders over the past week has inspired people to get active and explore Wales on their bikes.”
Van Aert’s Jumbo – Visma teammate Olav Kooij took the cottages.com points jersey thanks to his run of four stage wins at the start of the week while compatriot Abram Stockman (TDT – Unibet) took the overall Sportsbreaks.com Combativity Award for the race.
Top Brit was Mark Donovan (Q36.5 Pro Cycling) in fifth place overall, narrowly ahead of Saint Piran’s Zeb Kyffin. Donovan was also on the Caerphilly podium with his teammates for taking the Team Classification.