Ethan Hayter is packing more into his 23rd year than most people manage and after his Ineos team won the Tour of Britain’s 18km team time trial in south Wales, he added the race lead in his home Tour to six stage victories and an Olympic silver medal this season. He goes into Wednesday’s extremely tough mountain stage through the north of the Principality with a slender lead over the two race favourites, Wout Van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe.
The 22-year-old from south London won the overall classification at the Tour of Norway a few weeks ago, but the competition in the British Tour is at a different level and on Wednesday’s long, steep finish climb up the Great Orme above Llandudno, a margin of 16sec on Van Aert and 23sec on Alaphilippe offers little room for manoeuvre. “It will be hard to control, we will be up against it, but it’s better to be 16 seconds ahead than behind,” said Hayter.
Given the season the Londoner has enjoyed, whether or not he holds on to the lead up the Orme, before the race reaches Aberdeen on Sunday there is a good chance he will add more wins to a record which already makes him Ineos’s most prolific winner this season. Thus far in 2021 he has raced six stage races, and he has taken stages wins in five of them.
The overnight race leader, Robin Carpenter of the US, managed to defy his own doubts in hanging on to his teammates at Rally Cycling, but their 11th place at the finish at Wales’s National Botanic Gardens in Camarthenshire meant they were well out of the overall picture, and he slipped down to 12th overall.
A successful team time trial looks totally seamless, but in fact there is little margin for error and misfortune or miscalculation can be costly. Van Aert was left ruing a front-wheel puncture to his teammate Pascal Eenkhorn which caused the Jumbo-Visma team to lose time in the final kilometre as they waited for the Dutchman to catch up.
The British Ribble-Weldtite squad punched well above their weight in eighth but an early puncture to Simon Wilson cost them time, although they enjoyed a perfect ride compared with WorldTour squad Qhubeka Nexthash, who split into two groups of two over the final hill and spent the final kilometre trying to work out who was where.
Alaphilippe’s Deceuninck-Quick-Step squad were dead level with Ineos at halfway, but their time trial specialist Tony Martin is long in the tooth compared with Ineos’s specialist Rohan Dennis, the individual time trial silver medallist in Tokyo; their second place does, however, leave the world champion neatly poised with plenty of climbs remaining on which to give Hayter the biggest test of his brief but hugely promising career.