Wout van Aert needs action every day. The Belgian all-rounder has been in every sprint at the 109th Tour de France so far, but then just drove the whole field apart on the way to Calais.
And Wednesday’s cobblestone stage, which is dreaded by many, is something of a comfort zone for van Aert. “I can’t imagine driving around the back of the field and looking at the area. I need a goal every day,” says van Aert.
van Aert: “The Tour is always a challenge”
And there are plenty of goals. The top priority is winning the green jersey for the best sprinter. The 27-year-old confidently leads this ranking. At the same time, his team Jumbo-Visma wants to win the tour with Primoz Roglic or his crown prince Jonas Vingegaard. So Van Aert only wears his yellow jersey as a placeholder – and has no problem with it. “It’s not easy to combine the two. But in the end the tour is always a challenge,” explains van Aert.
A look at the statistics shows how difficult it is for a team to win the yellow and green jerseys. It has been 25 years since this was last achieved. In 1997 Jan Ullrich won the tour and Erik Zabel was celebrated in the final on the Parisian Champs-Élysées in the green jersey. It was the jackpot for Team Telekom. In 2012, Sky tried Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish in both ratings, but ended up only ahead in the overall standings.
There are arguments among pundits and fans alike that van Aert could even win everything due to his versatility. Like his compatriot Eddy Merckx once did. The reason for this is the past tour. There, the three-time cross-country world champion won a time trial, the king’s stage twice over the unforgiving Mont Ventoux and the final sprint in Paris. No driver had ever managed that before.
Team Jumbo-Visma with big goals
For van Aert, such scenarios are just fantasies. He is far too heavy to be able to keep up with the best in the mountains. And yet the classic specialist is also one of Roglic and Vingegaard’s most important helpers in the mountains. But not only there. The former Amstel winner is also at the side of his captains on the cobblestones and in hilly terrain. An incredibly complex task that would probably be impossible for almost all other drivers.
In a team, you feel relaxed that you can achieve all goals. “We’ll see where we stand in the last week,” says sporting director Grischa Niermann. “Everyone in the team has to submit to the goals of the team, then we can also achieve them.” When it comes to planning tactics, the man from Lower Saxony is just as ambitious as van Aert on the bike. Niermann watched a few stages back in December. “Knowing the track is fundamental,” emphasizes the 46-year-old.
Last but not least, van Aert’s outstanding solo victory on the way to Calais proved that. Months ago, the Jumbo-Visma team chose the hill eleven kilometers before the finish line for an attack. At Paris-Nice in March, the closed attack on similar terrain was successfully practiced, and the feat was repeated on the tour. And that, although the competition emphasized that they had expected it because of Paris-Nice. But the restless Wout van Aert is just too good at the moment.