Belgian champion Wout van Aert twice conquered the daunting and gruelling Mont Ventoux to win the prestigious Stage 11 of the Tour de France on Wednesday.
Van Aert was part of a breakaway that formed in the early stages of the nearly 200km trek in southern France featuring an unprecedented double climb of the iconic mountain known as the “Giant of Provence”.
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UAE Team Emirates’ race leader Tadej Pogacar was one minute and 37 seconds behind, but kept the yellow jersey and stretched his lead to over five minutes.
At 26, Van Aert is a jack of all trades. He can sprint, climb and time trial, but did not fight for the general classification this year, working in support of Jumbo-Visma leader Primoz Roglic.
The former cyclo-cross world champion was given more leeway by his team after Roglic retired from the Tour last week, setting his sights on a stage win.
Van Aert went solo during the second ascent of the Ventoux, about 11km from the summit, to open a big gap with his breakaway companions.
He kept his lead intact in the long downhill to the finish line. He smiled to TV cameras and clinched his fist as he approached the town of Malaucene, then raised on his pedals and yelled in triumph with his arms stretched. It was van Aert’s fourth career stage win at the Tour.
The Ventoux is part of the Tour’s lore. It was the site of an incredible scene back in 2016 when four-time champion Chris Froome had to briefly run toward the summit after he damaged his bike in a crash.
An epic contest between Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani in 2000 also took place on the slopes of the “Bald Giant”, where British rider Tom Simpson died in 1967 from a combination of amphetamines and alcohol.
1 Tadej Pogacar UAE Team Emirates 43:44.38
2 Rigoberto Uran EF Education-Nippo +5.18
3 Jonas Vingegaard Jumbo-Visma +5.32
4 Richard Carapaz Ineos Grenadiers +5.33
5 Ben O’connor Ag2r Citroen Team +5.58
6 Wilco Kelderman Bora-Hansgrohe +6.16
7 Alexey Lutsenko Astana-Premier Tech +6.30
8 Enric Mas Movistar Team +7.11
9 Guillaume Martin Cofidis +9.29
10 Peio Bilbao Bahrain Victorious +10.28