Wout van Aert said that it was touch and go as to whether he would be able to secure his second Tour of Britain victory after being put on the ropes by his rivals throughout the gruelling final stage in Wales.
Ineos Grenadiers’ Carlos Rodriguez soloed to victory after launching a huge attack in the mountains around Caerphilly. The Spaniard was joined by Great Britain’s Stephen Williams.
The duo worked tirelessly together to put Van Aert and Jumbo-Visma under pressure although Williams eventually faded on the frenetic finishing circuit.
Speaking to the media – including Cycling Weekly – in Caerphilly, Van Aert explained that he was forced to stay calm when it appeared that one of the duo up the road could potentially snatch the leaders jersey from his and Jumbo-Visma’s grasp.
“It was a super tough stage,” Van Aert said. “With the course of this year, the last weekend was really decisive and everybody went really all in for that general classification.
“Today the climbs were a bit longer which is tricky for me, especially comparing me with riders like Rodriguez and Williams, who are more than 20 kilograms lighter I think. So yeah, at some points I really had to stay calm trust in my teammates and in the final two laps I really had to fight for the GC and let the stage win go away.
“We really had to think a lot in that final but I managed to do it.”
When the attacks started to come, Van Aert appeared isolated at times without any of his teammates present alongside him. The pressure was increased on the Belgian due to Magnus Sheffield’s presence in the chase group behind his Ineos teammate Rodriguez.
“When I dropped on that climb where Rodriguez attacked was definitely a bad situation because I was left alone in a pretty small group,” he added.
“So yeah, there I really had to hope a few of my teammates were able to come back and stay calm and then I saw Nathan [Van Hooydonck] and Steven [Kruijswijk] coming back to the group and I really needed that help to close in [on Rodriguez] again towards the local lap.”
Jumbo-Visma won five of eight stages at this year’s race, and as well as Van Aert’s overall victory the team also won the points competition through sprinter Olav Kooij.
The Dutchman took four of the team’s stage wins before Van Aert had his moment in Felixstowe.
Van Aert won the 2021 edition of the British stage race and explained that he was relieved to be able to secure his second title – by just three seconds – after his team’s week of dominance.
“It feels great,” he said. “I mean, we had such an amazing week with a team stop starting off with five stage wins in a row was pretty incredible and I think especially from thereon, there was a lot of pressure on us in this race, a lot of attacks on our team and we managed to control every stage basically so super proud especially to finish off that teamwork.”