Tour de force: Jumbo-Visma seize cycling’s Tour of Britain from stage 1 in Manchester

Half a million spectators lined the roads to watch the Manchester-based first stage of the 2023 Tour of Britain, including packed crowds at the finish line on Deansgate. 

Elite cycling’s juggernaut, Team Jumbo-Visma, laid down a marker early on, with Dutch sprinter Olav Kooj taking the first stage win on 3 September.

His teammate, likely title winner and 2021 victor, superstar Wout van Aert, was firmly on his wheel after a superb leadout, making it a TJV 1-2 over the line. 

Stage 1 started in Altrincham and wound 164km (106 miles) through Greater Manchester, including stunning vistas in Rochdale and hills in Ramsbottom, ending in a sprint finish in Manchester’s bustling city centre. 

The city is one of the UK’s biggest for cycling and home to the iconic – and recently refurbished – velodrome of champions Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Bradley Wiggins, and Dame Laura and Jason Kenny. 

Leaving Manchester, the race continued for another seven stages, taking in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Suffolk, Essex, and Gloucestershire before finishing in North Wales yesterday. 

In an extremely flat, sprinter-friendly race – an unusual parcours in modern, mountain-dominated racing – Kooj added to an already successful 2023 with another three stage wins. He handed over the baton to van Aert on stage five, who took his rivals by surprise by appearing to lead out Kooj but instead attacking with 800m to go. 

His competitors for the stage were left stranded and could not catch him in time – and the three seconds’ advantage van Aert claimed at the line was enough to hand him the overall title. 

His triumph backed up his win two years ago and provided some satisfaction after a series of frustrating second-place finishes this year, including throughout the Tour de France and a silver medal at the Glasgow World Championships road race last month. 

Jumbo-Visma may prioritise Grand Tours, but their Tour of Britain lineup, and flawless tactics, showcased their incredible strength in depth and cements their position as elite cycling’s top team. 

The Dutch outfit have proven the successor to British powerhouse Team Sky, but Team GB had a less successful race overall, losing Tom Pidcock to injury and with Ethan Vernon pipped to the line on two occasions. 

But huge crowds followed the Tour regardless, enjoying some surprise sunshine and cheering on the country’s biggest elite race.

Main image: The 2023 Tour of Britain Stage 1 draws to an end on Deansgate. Image by Swiss Adam on X – used with permission

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