Van Aert was second in the first three stages driven through Belgium, but today he reached his seventh stage victory at the Tour d'France. He covered the stage from Dunkirk to Calais, which is 171.5 kilometers long, in four hours, one minute and 36 seconds.
Van Aert now has a lead of 25 seconds in the general classification over the Belgian Ivo Lampart and 32 seconds over the Slovenian Tadej Pogačar. The fifth stage is scheduled for tomorrow, and the race ends on July 24 in Paris.
In a collective show of strength from his Jumbo-Visma team, the Belgian broke clear on the final climb, the Cote du Cap Blanc-Nez, after his teammates, Tiesj Benoot and Jonas Vingegaard, set a fierce pace on the steepest sections of the headland.
Van Aert, 27, second in all three of the Tour’s Grand Départ stages last weekend, feared another disappointment in a bunch sprint. “I didn’t want to take the risk,” he said. “We were in a perfect position.
The goal was to go full to the top and see what happened”. What happened was that Van Aert and his team blew the race apart, albeit momentarily. Only Adam Yates of Ineos Grenadiers and Vingegaard were able to follow, with even the defending champion, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates), and Van Aert’s teammate, Primoz Roglic, among those left chasing.
But on the rolling approach to Calais Van Aert dropped all his pursuers and triumphantly took his first stage win in this year’s race. “They did the same thing at Paris-Nice,” Yates said of Van Aert’s team.
“We had a suspicion they might do it, sprinting full gas from the bottom to the top. I ran out of legs just over the top”. Tom Southam, sports director to Education EF EasyPost, played down the significance of the cobbled stage.
“We’ve had them before,” he said. “It’s not totally novel. But it takes a lot more work from the equipment side. In the spring Classics we have spare wheels everywhere, all across northern France.