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Tour of Britain: Jumbo-Visma rues loss of Harper ahead of crucial team time trial

BODMIN ENGLAND SEPTEMBER 05 Wout Van Aert of Belgium George Bennett of New Zealand Chris Harper of Australia Pascal Eenkhoorn of Netherlands Gijs Leemreize of Netherlands Tony Martin of Germany and Team Jumbo Visma during the team presentation prior to the 17th Tour of Britain 2021 Stage 1 a 1808km stage from Penzance to Bodmin TourofBritain TourofBritain on September 05 2021 in Bodmin England Photo by Harry TrumpGetty Images
The team which lined up at the start of the Tour of Britain is now without the rider on the far left, Chris Harper (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) not only lost the blue jersey of the leader at the Tour of Britain on stage 2 but also a valuable teammate to help in the battle to reclaim it, with Australian rider Chris Harper crashing early in the 183.9-kilometre hilly stage from Sherford to Exeter.

The loss of Harper, who had his elbow stitched up in hospital following the crash, leaves the team one man down heading into the crucial hilly 18.2 kilometre stage 3 team time trial, with the course from Llandeilo to the National Botanic Garden of Wales expected to provide a major GC shake-up.

“It’s a shame that Chris crashed out of the race today,” sports director Frans Maassen said. 

“The plan was to create a good starting position for the team time trial tomorrow. Due to the loss of Chris that plan is more or less out the window.”

“The result today is fine, but we had to do more work than planned and hoped for.”

Van Aert, who is using the eight-day race as preparation for the World Championships, claimed victory and consequently the race lead on the opening stage, where he sprinted to the win. The Belgian champion, one of the key favourites, had said before stage 2 that the second day didn’t suit him as well, so there was no expectation he’d chase the win. 

The peloton, however, was still looking to the team of the race leader to work to keep the gap to the break out the front in check, with five riders going away early in the stage and taking a lead approaching eight minutes.

The final survivor of that break, Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling) took the win, 33 seconds ahead of the depleted peloton, which meant he also stepped into the lead overall, sitting 22 seconds ahead of Van Aert in second and 26 ahead of Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers). 

The gaps on the general classification at this point are small, with more than 30 riders within a minute of the lead, though that is expected to change after the team time trial which could make or break the race for a number of the GC hopefuls.

“After the time trial we have to see what we can do with Wout in the general classification,” said Maassen. “A good team time trial is crucial for a good classification. So it is even more disappointing that Chris is no longer riding.

“We really wanted to show ourselves. The changes we had to make earlier were already not in our favour. We’ll have to see how far we get with five motivated riders in the team.”