Just as another bunch sprint and a record-breaking win for his Jumbo – Visma team-mate Olav Kooij looked inevitable, van Aert sprung clear with 900 meters remaining and caught his GC rivals napping.

Despite a headwind finish along Felixstowe’s sun-drenched Sea Road, the Belgian star somehow held on to win by three seconds and usurp Kooij from the top of the overall standings.

Great Britain’s Ethan Vernon won the bunch sprint for second, narrowly ahead of BORA – hansgrohe’s Danny van Poppel.

Race Highlights

The stage kicked off with a fast battle for the breakaway, with a group of five riders containing King of the Mountains leader James Fouché (Bolton Equities Black Spoke) joined by Harry Birchill (Saint Piran), Kamil Małecki (Q36.5 Pro Cycling), Hartthijs De Vries (TDT-Unibet) and Jack Brough (Great Britain) escaping the peloton early on.

However, unlike the preceding stages, the peloton were not particularly keen for this group to get too far ahead, keeping the gap very small before catching them again before the first climb after just 20km of racing.

Fouché still managed to crest the climb first to add to his KoM lead, but missed out on the next break that went. The new group was made up of Joey Rosskopf (Q36.5 Pro Cycling), Abram Stockman (TDT-Unibet) and Callum Ormiston (Global 6 Cycling). This move was allowed to go, and the trio soon had a three-minute lead as the situation finally calmed down.

Stockman won both the KoM and the intermediate sprint, and then from there the race was very quiet with no more point-scoring opportunities in the 127km remaining. Naturally, it was once again Jumbo-Visma who were controlling things, but they were clearly feeling a little more generous towards the break on a sunny day in Suffolk.

After a long stretch of very little happening, the peloton finally started to ramp up the chase going into the final 40km, and the gap gradually began to shrink. It was down to 30 seconds with 24km remaining, with Ineos Grenadiers glued to the wheels of the Jumbo riders charged with closing the gap. Olav Kooij and Wout van Aert were not seen putting their noses in the win at any time during the chase, showing just how much they’ve been able to save for the sprint finishes this week.

Ormiston was the first to drop out of the break, with 20km to go, followed by Stockman, whilst Rosskopf pushed on for the longest, holding on valiantly until he was caught with 5km to go.

Approaching the finale, some teams did try to get in the way of Jumbo-Visma’s lead-out, but it was an error on a roundabout with 7km to go – where the Jumbo train went the wrong way – that really caused the Dutch team some problems, but they soon found their way back to the front for the finale.

Van Aert was on the front of the peloton heading into the final kilometer, appearing to be setting up another sprint for Kooij, but going into one of last corners Kooij slightly grabbed the breaks round the bend, slowing up the peloton and letting Van Aert accelerate away from the bunch. A moment of hesitation from the peloton and the blocking action from the slowing Jumbo riders allowed Van Aert to get an immediate jump, which the strong Belgian was able to hold all the way to the line, holding off the sprinting peloton behind.