The AJ Bell Tour of Britain cycling race spans the length of Britain starting in Penzance in Cornwall on 5th September and finishing a week later in Aberdeen in the north-east of Scotland. The race is divided into eight stages that total 1300km as the route works its way through south-west England, up along the coast of Wales, into the north-west of England before crossing over to the east coast and then on up into Scotland.
The field consists of 18 teams of 6 riders and includes the three top-ranked teams in the world: Deceuninck-Quick Step from Belgium, INEOS Grenadiers from the UK and Jumbo-Visma from the Netherlands. Top riders competing include the current World Road Race Champion, Julian Alaphilippe from France, Olympic Road Time Trial Gold Medallist, Wout van Aert from Belgium and top Briton, Ethan Hayter who won a silver medal in the Track Cycling Madison event in Tokyo.
Canyon dhb SunGod Tour of Britain Stage 1
The Canyon dhb SunGod team, who are widely considered to be the most successful team in the UK after INEOS Grenadiers, selected the following 6 riders for the Tour: Matt Bostock, Ryan Christensen, Thomas Mein, Jacob Scott, Max Stedman and Rory Townsend.
STAGE 1: The team had a superb start to the AJ Bell Tour of Britain with Rory Townsend sprinting to 5th place on the day behind stage winner Wout van Aert and Jacob Scott leading the Skoda King-of-the-Mountains (KOM) and Eisberg Alcohol Free Wine intermediate sprint competitions on the 180km opening stage from Penzance to Bodmin in Cornwall. Max Stedman was the victim of a large crash after 18km which left his nearly-new Canyon bicycle frame broken in two places. A bike swap got him back on his way, though with a long chase to regain the rest of the peloton of riders. Jacob Scott had joined an early breakaway of 5 riders that was not caught until late on in the stage and took a first, a second and a third place on the three Skoda KOM climbs on the stage, which entitled him to wear the green KOM leader’s jersey on Stage 2. However, Jacob was not finished there as he also took first place in both Eisberg intermediate sprints which entitled him to wear the red sprints leader’s jersey as well!
Rory Townsend finishing 5th in the Stage 1 sprint
STAGE 2: The Canyon dhb SunGod team continued in the same vein on Stage 2 which started in Sherford near Plymouth, wound its way round the south Devon coast before crossing up and over Dartmoor and finishing 184km further on in Exeter. Thomas Mein and Max Stedman were involved in another early crash leaving Mein with extensive abrasions to his shoulder and hip though he continued on gamely.
Thomas Mein carries on despite suffering severe road rash after a crash in Stage 2
Rory Townsend was again the best finisher, this time in 6th place behind stage winner Robin Carpenter (from American team Rally Cycling) who was the lone survivor of the 7-rider breakaway. Meanwhile, Jacob Scott had also joined the breakaway of the day sporting the bright green Skoda KOM leader’s jersey. This time Jacob took first place in each of the three Skoda KOM climbs, two of which were up on Dartmoor, which meant he consolidated his lead in the KOM competition. Jacob also took 2nd place in the two Eisberg intermediate sprints, each behind eventual stage winner Robin Carpenter, which meant that he also maintained his lead in the sprints classification.
Jacob Scott wearing the green Skoda KoM jersey chats to Wout van Aert on the start line
STAGE 3: This had a different format than every other stage in the race as the 6 riders from each team rode as a unit on a much shorter 18km course in the Team Time Trial (TTT) event based around the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire. Each team started 5 minutes apart with the goal of completing the set course in the shortest time possible. Canyon dhb SunGod weren’t expecting great results from this stage as the riders had had very limited time to practice time trialling as a team and produced a respectable ride under the circumstances, finishing 13th out of the 18 competing teams.
The team sets off in the Team Time Trial
STAGE 4: This was considered to be the ‘Queen Stage’, a term used to note the longest and most challenging stage of any race. The 210km route headed north along the coast from Aberaeron up over Snowdonia and on to Llandudno on the north coast where the stage finished with a 2km ascent of the Great Orme, which had an eye-watering maximum gradient of 20%! For the third time, Jacob Scott joined an early 5-rider breakaway that went away immediately the start flag dropped. Scott took the first two Skoda KOMs of the day before the breakaway was caught with still 50km of the long stage remaining. He also gained a first and second place in the Eisberg Sprints keeping him at the top of both the KOM and Sprint classifications. The whole team worked hard to get the designated team climber Max Stedman into a good position as the race approached the base of the final ascent. As the Great Orme rose above the coastline, the peloton shattered into fragments but Stedman seized the opportunity and worked his way through the field, finishing in an excellent 11th place, up amongst several world tour riders and just 29 seconds behind Wout van Aert who took his second stage win.
Max Stedman battles his way up the Great Orme alongside riders from World Tour Teams
So, at the half-way point the team has already surpassed the goal of gaining a Top 10 place on a stage and securing one of the key classification jerseys. They are also 10th in the overall team classification and 1st Continental team (based on the combined finishing times of the top 3 riders on each stage). Look out for the second part of this report which will summarise Stages 5-8 and let you know how the team got on!
Support staff: Key staff include Tim Elverson and Simon Holt who are the ‘Directeur Sportifs’ who set the race strategy and make adjustments via radio contact as each stage unfolds. Eoin O’Donohoe and Jacob Rubio are the long-suffering mechanics who prepare and repair the bikes, and make mechanical adjustments or wheel changes during a stage. Marie Lynn and Russell Kingston are the ‘soigneurs’ who provide post-stage massages, wash the kit and prepare in-race food.
Partners: The Canyon dhb SunGod team are supported by a whole range of sponsors without whom the team would never be able to operate. Cignpost Diagnostics have been instrumental in keeping the team on the road with their ExpressTest Covid testing services enabling the team to travel to races in France, Slovenia, Belgium and the Netherlands in preparation for the biggest target of the year, the AJ Bell Tour of Britain and also provided the pre-race Covid testing for the Tour of Britain 2021 team.
Easy access to ExpressTest local Covid testing has helped the team to race in 2021
Do you like the new Team Edition Canyon dhb SunGod Sunglasses and would like to help support the team?
Buy your own pair here.
Article by Paul and Marina Stedman.
Photos by team Photographer Hugh McManus.
Cignpost Diagnostics photo by Andrew Porter Commercial Photography.