Having toiled and fought through the first half of the AJ Bell Tour of Britain 2021, through Southern England, and Wales, Nottinghamshire rider James Shaw, and his Ribble Weldtite team-mates, headed North, via Warrington and Gateshead, before two days north o’ border, in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Overall, it was a good weeks’ ride for the Nott’s pro cyclist, taking an overall, 14th place in the General Classification, whilst enjoying a brilliant, fifth place stage finish on the Carlisle to Gateshead, Stage Six route; team-mate Matthew Gibson bettering that with an equally impressive, third, when on Hawick to Edinburgh the following day.
For Shaw though, it was another chance to impress out on the roads, and impress he did over the full eight days, maintaining his position just outside of the top ten on the General Classification throughout.
On Stage Five, between Alderley Park and Warrington, the ongoing battle between favourite Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) et al, continued to throw up excitement aplenty, this stage finishing quite messily, well for Van Aert it did anyway, he being involved in a crash in the closing stages thus allowing Hayter to capitalise and fend off sprinters Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Qhubeka Assos), and Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep), to take the stage.
Ribble Weldtite’s Dan Bigham led an early, five-man breakaway early on the stage, but would eventually finish way down in 68th place, claiming good points on both the sprints, and the mountains, whilst both Matthew Gibson (17th) and James Shaw (19th) crossed inside the top twenty.
At this point, Shaw, holding that fourteenth place on the GC, was standing 0:02:04 off then leader, Ethan Hayter, before ploughing towards the North-East and Cumbria, and a great day out for Shaw.
Granted the day, overall, belonged to that triumvirate of Van Aert, Hayter, and Julian Alaphilippe, the former taking his attack inside the final, 15km, for the win, it would be Shaw who would impress, he being one of a number of riders amongst that Van Aert attack.
Thrusting ahead of the peloton alongside Van Aert, Hayter and Gonzalo Rodriguez (Movistar), Michael Woods and Daniel Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Shaw would find himself crossing the line in an excellent, fifth place ahead of the crossover to bonny Scotland.
Stage Seven begun in Hawick, in the Scottish borders, and would see the peloton head to Edinburgh, a day that would see the Belgian, Yves Lampeart (Deceuninck-QuickStep) claim both his, and his teams, only stage win, finishing ahead of America’s Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), and Shaw’s RW teammate, Matt Gibson, in third.
Shaw would cross the line in Edinburgh in 22nd, alongside teammate Gruff Lewis, to head into the final stage maintaining that GC of 14th, and 0:02:10 off then race leader, Ethan Hayter, of the Ineos Grenadiers.
As in most things, more in cycling, that leadership can change in an instant, and so it proved on the final, Stage Eight, between Stonehaven and Aberdeen as Van Aert snatched a stunning tour victory, courtesy of a fantastic, sprint finish, into Aberdeen, coming in ahead of second place, and the veteran German, Andre Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Cavendish, who crossed third.
Van Aert however, he overturned Hayter’s overnight lead when taking the final stage in 4:07:56, the first of the RW riders, Matt Gibson, crossing in seventh place, with Hayter, disappointing for him, in 11th, and Shaw coming in in 28th place to hold that GC 14 overall at the finish.
Speaking of the GC, the AJ Bell Tour of Britain crown would be taken by the early favourite, Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) with an overall time of 31:41:22, ahead of Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) just 0:00:06 adrift, and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in third at 0:00:27; Nottingham’s James Shaw meanwhile claimed 14th place overall, coming 0:02:16 behind the winner.
Afterwards, James said on his Instagram account: “What a week. Potentially one of the most stressful weeks at a race I’ve ever seen. Before we even departed to start the race in Penzance a young racer boy managed to crash into our team car. And, for the first few days of the race this set the tone. Luckily local team @teamspectraracking were happy to lend us their car for the race. So thank you so much to them, you saved us. Once we managed to put our bad luck back on the shelf for next time we really got up to speed. A team dynamic isn’t just about how positive everyone is when things are going well but it also needs to be strong enough to pull one another through the demoralising times when your stars just aren’t lining up. Thanks to @ribble_weldtite for the year as a whole but @tourofbritain in particular. The whole team pulled an absolute shift to get us where we needed to be and for that the riders and I will remain forever grateful.
“Now time to relax before a huge announcement in the coming days.”
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @JamesthingyShaw pictured in pink & yellow James finishing fifth in Gateshead.