Wout van Aert took his third victory at the Tour of Britain 2021, out-sprinting Ethan Hayter and Julian Alaphilippe, narrowing the gap in the overall standings to four seconds.
Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) came out on top in a select group that went away thanks to an attack by the Belgian on the final major climb of the day.
Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) held onto the overall leader's jersey, despite losing four seconds in bonuses on the line to Van Aert with the race looking like it may come down to the final day between the two riders with two stages to go.
The day was another attack-filled race, with Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) getting into the break before the plethora of counter moves later on in the stage resulted in a select bunch sprint in Gateshead at the foot of the Angel of the North.
How it happened
The day started in a damp Carlisle with another challenging 198km, including a dip into the Lake District with the riders passing by Ullswater before heading into the Pennines with three categorised climbs and a hilly final into Gateshead.
Originally a nine-man break got away with Mark Cavendish, Tim Declercq (Both Deceuninck - Quick-Step), Dan McLay (Arkéa-Samsic), Rory Townsend (Canyon-dhb-SunGod), Colin Joyce (Rally), Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Fenix), George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), Mason Hollyman (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Cumbrian local Mark Donovan (DSM).
Unfortunately for the break, Donovan was too close in the general classification at 1-42 in ninth place overall, so the team of the leader’s jersey Ethan Hayter, Ineos Grenadiers, chased hard.
This made Deceuninck - Quick-Step use their numbers and deliberately drop Donovan out of the back with clever riding by Cavendish. The Manx sprinter then bridged back across to the leaders with Bennett leaving Donovan and Hollyman to try and chase back on.
The dropped pair were not able to bridge the gap and eventually they were caught by the peloton who allowed the gap head up to 3-50 at its peak. The reason Ineos were pegging it back was due to Bennett and Joyce both being within four minutes from Hayter, Bennett best placed at 3-18.
With 95km to go the race looked to have stabilised with the gap holding around 3-40 as the race headed onto the second climb of the day, Killhope Cross.
In the peloton, mountains jersey leader Jacob Scott (Canyon-dhb-SunGod) went over the top taking three points with team-mate Matt Bostock taking second with Scott then rolling over the top of the final climb, Burtree Fell, confirming his victory in that classification. All he has to do is finish the race.
The pace had been upped by Richie Porte and Owain Doull at the front of the Ineos Grenadiers train and the gap between the break and the peloton dipped under three minutes.
Movistar joined Ineos on the front of the peloton as they looked to set up their leader of Gonzalo Serrano with Marc Soler and Gabs Cullaigh working hard. Israel Start-Up Nation sent Alex Dowsett to work in the peloton with 53km to go as the gap went up to 3-15.
With 45km to go Team DSM joined the chase that saw the gap plummet to 2-16, with the dark clouds and occasional rain opened out to a bit of sunshine.
With 20km to go the gap had dropped to 40 seconds as McLay dropped back to the peloton as he was not able to follow the high pace any longer. Deceuninck - Quick-Step started thinking tactically in the front group but as the gap was at 36 seconds with 18km to go, it looked like the break was doomed.
Cavendish tried a move but he was dragged back very quickly, this set up an attack by Declercq with Bennett trying too but nothing stuck. Qhubeka-NextHash joined the pacing in the peloton with 15km to go.
The break was finally caught with 14km to go that saw a counter move by James Shaw (Ribble-Weldtite) and Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar). Ineos Grenadiers took over chasing duties yet again.
With 13km to go Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) attacked and flew past the leading duo with Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) jumping straight onto the wheel of the Belgian champion.
Hayter was dropped by the move with just one team-mate, Carlos Rodriguez, who dragged him back to the leaders. Woods had Dan Martin in support of him as well as Mikkel Honoré with Alaphilippe.
Serrano made the selection too with Shaw and Jorgenson both still holding on after being part of a late move. Alaphilippe took advantage of a traffic island with 11km to go and went solo but Rodriguez dragged the world champion back yet again.
Even Hayter himself followed a move by Honoré but that was immediately snuffed out with more and more accelerations and counter attacks peppered the group. Woods went hard with 8km to go and immediately got a gap on the group but Rodriguez was back on the front chasing hard yet again.
Alaphilippe used a very fast descent to drag the gap to Woods right down again with Jorgenson making the final effort to bring him back. Rodriguez continued to set the strong tempo with 3km to go with Jorgenson retaking the lead for the final 2km to set up a select sprint.
Honoré started the lead-out for Alaphilippe who kicked first but Hayter and then Van Aert both powered by with Van Aert having too much speed to take the stage.
Bonus seconds on the line means that Van Aert now sits just four seconds behind Hayter in the general classification going into the final two stages.
Stage seven heads into Scotland with a very hilly 194.8km taking on three categorised climbs but with at least 18 uncategorised climbs between Hawick and Edinburgh and a possible bunch sprint.
Tour of Britain stage six, Carlisle to Gateshead (198km)
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma, in 4-35-56
2. Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
3. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
4. Gonzalo Serrano (Esp) Movistar Team
5. James Shaw (GBr) Ribble-Weldtite Pro Cycling
6. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation
7. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation
8. Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, all at same time
9. Matteo Jorgensen (USA) Movistar Team, at 4s
10. Carlos Rodriguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time.
General classification after stage six
1. Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, in 22-53-32
2. Wout van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 4s
3. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 21s
4. Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceunick - Quick-Step, at 35s
5. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 54s
6. Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-08
7. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 1-10
8. Kritian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix, at 1-37
9. Mark Donovan (GBr) Team DSM, at 1-58
10. Carlos Rodriguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-01.
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