Wout van Aert admitted he was happy just to finish stage five of the Tour of Britain “in one piece” following a late crash on the sprint into Warrington on Thursday.
The Belgian, who started Thursday top of the general classification, was caught up in a collision after Ineos Grenadiers rider Owain Doull took a tumble on the slippery streets.
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Although he did not hit the deck himself, Van Aert lost touch with the leading pack and could do nothing as Ethan Hayter won the sprint to regain the overall lead of the race.
Hayter now has an eight second advantage over Van Aert heading into Friday's sixth stage.
"I am especially happy that I myself did not suffer any physical damage,” he said. “I felt well-placed in the last kilometre. I chose Mark Cavendish's wheel.
"The road surface was wet and that partly caused some riders to crash. I was able to squeeze the brakes just in time and make sure I didn't fall myself. Unfortunately, the sprint opportunities disappeared immediately after this incident.
"The objective for today was to defend the jersey. But the most important thing remains to avoid unnecessary risks. With a view to what is yet to come, I am happy that I made it to the finish in one piece.”
Following the race Van Aert congratulated Hayter on his stage win, but joked that without the crash the British rider “wouldn’t have won”.
The Belgian is using the Tour of Britain as his main warm-up race for the World Championships, which begin in Flanders a week on Sunday.
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