Tour of Britain 2023 – Stage 6

Tour of Britain 2023 – Stage 6

The 2023 Tour of Britain passed close to me today, so of course I headed out to catch the riders coming through. Running an event like the Tour of Britain isn’t easy in the current economic climate, and so the organisers basically are limited in where they go based on the councils that will pay to have them come. And that has meant that this year’s race has been a very backloaded event. There are eight stages, but the first six are sprint stages.

In fact, so much are they sprint stages, that Team Jumbo-Visma’s Olav Kooij won each of the first four stages. He’d have probably won the fifth too had not his team cooked something smart up and let Wout Van Aert make a sneaky break in the closing few hundred metres of stage 5 to let him take the win instead.

Stage 6 was my local stage, and the profile very much suggested another sprint stage. In general terms, if you’re going to watch cycling at the side of the road, you’re best off finding a hill somewhere which will mean that the riders go slower as they ride past you, and ideally are also quite strung out.

Essex isn’t known for being full of hills, and the only ones close by had the smallest of inclines that wouldn’t trouble the peleton. So I found a corner at around 7km to go where at least they wouldn’t go past in too much of a blur. And handful of other cyclists had picked the same corner, and to be fair, many cyclists from roundabouts had found other corners and places to spectate.

Watching on the GCN app on my mobile showed me that two riders formed the breakaway but were being toyed with by the peleton left hanging out just a few seconds ahead. As the TV helicopter appeared on the horizon meaning the race was nearing, even that modest break got swept up and the peleton came together as one.

I had thought that with as few as 7km to go, teams would be forming for the sprint, but with Team Jumbo-Visma having taken all the spoils thus far, they were playing a different game today, and when the peleton appeared, they were tightly grouped and not at all strung out.

Whilst Jumbo-Visma were keeping race leader van Aert nicely safe towards the front, with Ineos’ Luke Rowe right behind him when they came past me, there was no obvious team really driving a leadout.

Once the peleton and the attendant support vehicles had screached past (literally on my corner), I returned to my phone to watch the final few kilometres into nearby Harlow town centre where the finish was. And today, the peleton got it right and it wasn’t a clean sweep for Jumbo-Visma. Whilst it looked at first as though the British rider Ethan Vernon might finally have got his win (he’d been #5, #6, #3, #3 and #2 in each of the first five stages), he’d actually just lost out again, this time to BORA-hansgrohe’s Danny Van Poppel by the thickness of tyre.

I rode back home, risking some gravel on my very-much-non-gravel road bike on the way home.