After three second places, Belgian Wout van Aert had had enough. The Tour de France leader attacked on the final climb of stage four and won.
After a spectacular attack on the chalk cliffs of the Channel coast, Wout van Aert, the leader of the 109th Tour de France, raced to the finish in Calais, euphoric about the perfectly implemented plan and broke his curse as the eternal second of this tour.
At the finish, the Belgian swung his arms like a bird. Then, after the long-awaited stage win, he hugged each of his teammates. “I was fed up with mass sprints. I didn’t want to take the risk anymore,” joked van Aert after three second places, two of them in sprints.
Full throttle to the crest and then suffer ten kilometers
At the Cote du Cap Blanc-Nez, his team Jumbo-Visma staged a team time trial and dismantled the entire field. “I heard over the radio that we’ve done damage. So it was full throttle to the crest. After that it was still ten kilometers to suffer, »said the Belgian.
In the overall standings, van Aert extended his lead over his compatriot Yves Lampaert to 25 seconds. Overall favorites like defending champion Tadej Pogacar and van Aert’s team-mates Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard all crossed the finish line despite suffering a lot in the attack on the hill just over 900 meters long.
The team carried out a similar attack in the spring at Paris-Nice – and now repeated the feat on the tour. “We looked at it a few weeks ago. We knew what we had to do, »said van Aerts teammate Christoph Laporte. The competition was amazed and impressed. “I didn’t expect anyone to come here alone,” said Maximilian Schachmann. Behind van Aert, his compatriot Jasper Philipsen won the sprint of the field in front of Laporte.
The following stage promises more excitement
Until van Aert and Co. attacked, the first day after the visit to Denmark was uneventful. The section on Wednesday from Lille to Arenberg promises to be significantly more exciting. Eleven cobblestone sectors have to be mastered, the first comes after about 74 kilometers. A total of 19.4 kilometers of bumpy dirt roads in northern France are on the program. Compared to the previous cobblestone stage of the 2018 Tour, the organizers chose longer sectors.
Back then, John Degenkolb celebrated one of the most emotional victories of his career. On Wednesday, there are also parts of the pavé sector between Erre and Wandignies, which bears Degenkolb’s name. With four stars, the pavé belongs to the second heaviest category and is the only one in the program of the classic Paris-Roubaix that is named after a still active professional. Degenkolb, who won the classic through the hell of the north in 2015, is one of the prominent sponsors of an association that is committed to preserving the cobblestone passages.
It is questionable whether Degenkolb has the form to repeat his coup from four years ago. Shortly before the tour, a corona infection threw him back. The veteran doesn’t really know where he stands. «The values in the medical tests were unremarkable and I didn’t notice anything during training either. But you will only really see it in the race, »said the Thuringian.
Mathieu van der Poel, who has already won the Tour of Flanders twice, is the top favourite. From a German point of view, Nils Politt could also have a chance. The German champion is in top form and finished second at Paris-Roubaix in 2019. However, the man from Cologne may have to protect his captain Alexander Vlasow and guide him safely across the pavement.