Tour de France - Wout van Aert, orphan of Mathieu van der Poel: "It's more prestigious when I can beat Mathieu"

Tour de France – Wout van Aert, orphan of Mathieu van der Poel: “It’s more prestigious when I can beat Mathieu”

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Wout van Aert has found himself a new tough opponent. Opposed to Mathieu van der Poel for years, from the undergrowth to the Classics via the Tour, WVA has been in more or less direct confrontation with Tadej Pogacar, since the start of this Grande Boucle. The two men do not have the same ambition: one dreams in green, the other in yellow, and both combine this into a reality after eight stages. But they have one thing in common, in addition to their talent: their ability to express it on many grounds.

Saturday in Lausanne, they again monopolized two places on the podium. Van Aert won this 8th stage, Pogacar seeing Michael Matthews come between them, after having won the victory on the previous two days. The Côte du Stade Olympique was not enough to wring out the large carcass of the Belgian. “I was sometimes at the limit, on the steep parts, with a lot of guys from the general, Tadej Pogacar and my teammate Jonas Vingegaard in particular, but I knew that the last 300 meters were flatter“, analyzed the winner of the day.

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“If he had been 100%, he would have been there”

Relaunched on the set of France Televisions concerning the “absence” of a ghostly Van der Poel at the start of the Tour, Van Aert played the card of regret, not that of the cleat. “It is clear to everyone that he is not at his level. If he had been 100%, he would have been there, on such an arrival“, considered the leader of the points classification, about the Dutchman, omnipresent during the Giro this year and who seems rinsed since a correct inaugural time in Copenhagen.

The causes of the poor form of Van der Poel, who for a time thought of abandoning this 109th Tour de France, are not clear. But between a winter rotten by physical glitches, an anticipated – and thundering – return to competition during Milan-Sanremo (3rd), a Flanders campaign up to its standing (Tour of Flanders in the pocket, 9th place in Roubaix ) and a first Grand Tour completed in a disheveled way: the surprise is to be put into perspective.

Van Aert: “I stayed in the wheel of Pogacar and waited for it to open…”

Van der Poel is (slightly) gaining momentum

For two days, Mathieu van der Poel seems less behind than he was at the start of the 6th stage, dropped by a peloton agitated by an intense fight to form the breakaway. On Friday, during the ascent of the Planche des Belles Filles, a number of riders broke away before him. Then on Saturday, in Switzerland, his work for Jasper Philipsen did not pay off, the sprinter from Alpecin-Deceuninck being taken down, but he was noticed.

Wout van Aert may well find his best enemy, in the few medium mountain stages that remain to be contested in this 109th edition (July 1-24), or even on the Champs-Elysées. In full possession of their means, the two friends can stare at each other almost everywhere. In the meantime, the Jumbo-Visma handyman has found something better than a replacement, as he recalls with a laugh: “It’s more prestigious when I can beat Mathieubut I can only beat the guys who are there… and beat Tadej Pogacar, it’s not easy either.”

This time, Pogacar did not have the last word: Van Aert’s victorious sprint in pictures

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