The first week of this 2022 Tour de France is turning into – if it isn’t already – a one man show.
Second on the first three stages, in the Yellow Jersey, and on Stage 4 the Jumbo Visma powerhouse puts on one of the greatest finishes in recent cycling history to win Stage 4 with a ride that destroyed the rest of the peloton.
Last year we saw Mathieu Van Der Poel win on Stage 2 with a ride that was almost as impressive as this one by WVA. I say ‘almost’, because yesterday Van Aert’s team signalled their intention by attacking en masse on the final climb and still no other rider could respond, and he won in Yellow, which made him a marked man whom all the others were keeping an eye on.
Read about the great WVA / VDP rivalry here.
Tour favourite Tadej Pogacar was unable to respond, as indeed was Van Aert’s teammate Primoz Roglic. The only riders able to stay on his wheel til just before the summit of the hill were his teammate Jonas Vingegaard and Adam Yates of Ineos Grenadiers, but neither could handle the raw power of the Belgian’s attack.
“This stage was something we marked already long before the Tour,” Van Aert said. “If you look to the course it was quite demanding, always up and down. It was the plan to try something both for general classification and for the green jersey.
“I felt like flying in the last 10km, and it was real. It was special to ride alone in the yellow jersey and to take a stage like this.”
Van Aert is now fully established as the most exciting rider in the world. Last year he won three stages at the Tour: a time trial, the final finish on the Champs Elysee, and, unfathomably, the stage up Ventoux. His all-round talent is simply unmatched.
“There are only one or two bike riders in the world that could do what Wout van Aert could do,” was all Ineos Grenadiers’ deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth had to say of yesterday’s effort (and we all know who the other is).
Today’s stage is on the cobbles of course and that suits Van Aert, down to the ground, as does Thursday.
Is this the best ever start for a rider at the Tour? It may well be.
His Jumbo Visma team deserve a mention too, they are the best outfit in pro cycling at the moment and laid the ground work for WVA’s win by hammering the peloton into submission before the Yellow jersey tool off. If Roglic or Vingegaard are in top form and a few of the others in the team can do the work on the mountains, Pogacar should find he has a tougher fight than last year.
And let’s not forget Jasper Philpsen… who thought he’d won. D’oh!