‘It will be a matter of legs’ - Wout van Aert in confident mindset ahead of Tour of Britain finale

Belgian says attack was the best form of defence for Jumbo-Visma after race explodes in Gloucestershire

Wout van Aert in Gloucestershire
(Image credit: SWPix.com)

Wout van Aert believes the finale of the Tour of Britain will be 'a matter of legs' after an ‘explosive’ day of action on stage seven in Gloucestershire.

The Belgian launched a series of attacks in the Cotswolds as the race approached Gloucester in what appeared to be another huge statement of intent from Jumbo-Visma.

However, Van Aert later explained that the group were beginning to feel the efforts of the previous few stages which have seen them completely dominate the race.

Jumbo-Visma have won five of the seven stages so far through sprinter Olav Kooij and Van Aert. Kooij had won the first four before Van Aert stormed to victory in Felixstowe on stage five.

Van Aert told the media in Gloucester that he feels the final stage in Caerphilly - which will decide the race overall - will be a case of last man standing due to the longer climbs that await the peloton.

He said: “It was a really tough stage today. For the last 40 kilometres when we were still far from the breakaway we finally got some help from Movistar, although you heard it in the wheels already because they pulled quite fast.

“Going into that final steep KOM, the race really was on and I felt my teammates were a bit running out of gas, which is quite normal after seven days of pulling in the front and then I thought attacking might be the best defence.

"So, that's what I did but unfortunately I kind of isolated myself a few times with guys on my wheel who didn't really want to cooperate. So yeah, I made a bit of a mistake there.

“I think it will be less explosive tomorrow because the stage is even harder, or let's say way harder, it’s longer climbs during the day and then the climb on the circuit is like a proper wall I guess. I think it will be more a matter of legs in the final."

Going into the final day he still leads the race overall by three seconds.

“Today, I overestimated the course a bit," he added. "I thought it was quite tough in the final, but apparently there were still some fast guys who could hang on. So tomorrow I think we will see an even smaller group.”

Wout van Aert

(Image credit: SWPix.com)

Before stage seven got underway in Tewkesbury, Ineos Grenadiers announced that Tom Pidcock had withdrawn from the race due to a saddle sore infection. Van Aert explained that he knew Pidcock’s absence would mean Ineos came out fighting in the Cotswolds.

“It's for sure one of the big contenders that was not on the start line anymore,” Van Aert said when discussing Pidcock's withdrawal. “But we knew especially we could expect different tactics from Ineos and they really really were eager to be in the break.

“I think with Tom there we wouldn't have let them in the break so he had a helper up the road but yeah, right now this was the best situation we could create and the final was still a lot of difficult and guys strong guys to look at.”

As the riders entered the final third of action, Van Aert launched a series of savage attacks from the main field before he eventually bridged across to the day's breakaway which included Ineos' Ben Turner.

Wout van Aert

(Image credit: SWPix.com)

Eventually he briefly distanced the select group which had formed at the head of the race but appeared to blow up in the closing metres with the finish line in sight.

Acknowledging that he had appeared to crack, Van Aert reiterated that Jumbo-Visma's week of dominance had begun to take its toll.

Despite missing out on yet another stage win for the group, the Belgian backed his teammates to deliver on Sunday and secure what would be his second overall victory in the British stage race.

“Except for the final kilometre I was not running out of gas at all,” he said. “It was more my teammates who did a terrific job already the whole week and because of all the stage wins we took in the beginning it's quite normal that we don't get too much help from the others so we then have a hard time to control.

"I'm still proud of them and hopefully they can hold on for one more day and I can pay them back with a nice GC.”

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Tom Thewlis

Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly, and previously worked in communications at Oxford Brookes University. He has reported from a wide range of races and events including the Tour de France and World Championships.