Taking a page from its own playbook at Paris-Nice this spring, a horde of yellow jackets massed at the front and fractured the bunch.
The Dutch team sent a bolt through the peloton with Van Aert and Jonas Vingegaard accelerating away from everyone except Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) over the top of the Côte de Cap Blanc-Nez with just over 10km to go.
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“We had a plan for this stage for a long time,” said Van Aert, a winner after three straight second places. “We wanted to go for the win, get some green jersey points, and maybe try to surprise some of the GC riders. I would say it was a big success today.”
In fact, work on the stage began shortly after the Paris-Nice surprise.
Lead sport director Grischa Niermann lived up top reputation as being one of the peloton’s best at studying a route and preparation the proper tactic.
“I did the recon of this stage a week or two after Paris-Nice and then I saw it might be a similar finish where we can try something,” Niermann said. “This was one of the stages we had on our agenda in the Tour to try something.”
Much like the Paris-Roubaix stage in March, Jumbo-Visma massed at the front and split the pack. Nathan Van Hooydonck, Christophe Laporte, and Tiesj Benoot teed up the captains.
Niermann shrugged off observations that co-captain Primož Roglič was not on the wheel. Instead, he said the team is riding a near-perfect race so far.
“Primoz was not in a perfect position because he could have gone with Wout. But we make a plan to go around a corner first, but there are 175 other riders in the peloton and that’s the bike race. I have give compliments to all the boys on the team. We are always at the front. We are always out of trouble.”
Laporte: ‘We talked about this stage weeks ago’
So how much goes into preparation for a Tour stage like this?
Laporte said planning started months ago. Niermann scouted the stage this spring, and the team started to talk about targeting this stage during the past few weeks as the team trained at altitude.
“We already talked about this stage a few weeks ago,” Laporte said. “We knew what we had to do, we did the climb all out and we saw at the top who is the best. And Wout was the best today. He did a really nice and strong effort, and he deserved this victory.”
The team’s domination in the similar stage from Paris-Nice was on everyone’s mind. Laporte was a key part of the Paris-Nice raid, and helped to pile on Tuesday.
“If you’re not in the top 10 positions, it’s very hard to stay on the wheel,” Laporte said. “It’s a bit our specialty, we need to do two- or three-minute efforts, full out. We already did it in Paris-Nice, and it’s a bit similar.”
Vingegaard, who followed across with Van Aert but eased up when danger man Adam Yates was there, said the team is riding high so far in the opening stages.
“It’s a very nice win and we are super happy that he took the win today, and it was incredible how he rode off,” he said. “I was really close, and of course it would have been nice to be there.”
Van Aert rode alone in the final 10km in what was a battle on multiple fronts.
The team is racing for yellow, green, and stages. It was mission accomplished Tuesday.
“The expectation was to ride away here, not with three guys, but with 20 guys and Wout could win in the sprint, and maybe one of the GC guys could get caught out,” Niermann said. “In the end, Wout showed he can ride away from everyone.”
Sepp Kuss: ‘Wout can do it all’
Riders like Steven Kruijswijk and Sepp Kuss, who will be stepping up later in this Tour, listened to the play-by-play on the race radio.
“Maybe we will have more than one glass of champagne tonight,” Kruisjwijk said at the team bus. “We had the plan to split up the peloton and that worked out. But then he managed to add another acceleration and ride away.
“We know he’s very happy with the yellow jersey but he also had the victory in his head the past few days. Winning solo in the yellow jersey. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
We can definitely call this a . pic.twitter.com/LrfsOYnkEo
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) July 5, 2022
Kuss was impressed with how Van Aert finished off the job of the work of the entire team across the lumpy stage.
“We had a plan to make a hard pace on the climb and see what would happen,” Kuss said. “Some of the GC guys were a bit out of position there, and when it was a smaller group, Wout could go away. Wout can do it all.”
Kuss defended the team’s ambitious goals of the yellow jersey, green jersey, and stage wins.
“Maybe from the outside it looks like it’s too much to go for the stage wins and the GC, but it makes the atmosphere better and everyone is even more motivated,” Kuss said. “Mainly it was for the stage to get rid of some of the sprinters, when it’s like that, you never know.
“If you’re out of position on that short of a climb and all of our guys on the front, anything can happen.
“Grischa does such thorough research into the course and the conditions. It’s easy to make a plan, but it’s something else to pull it off.”
Jumbo-Visma noticed that Pogačar was isolated
Jumbo-Visma said it also has a plan to take on two-time defending champion Tadej Pogačar.
Niermann said it didn’t go unnoticed that Pogačar was a bit out of position and there weren’t many teammates with him.
“We have noticed that and it’s not a secret, but you still have to drop him,” Niermann said. “Pogačar is very strong and he can help himself a lot. He is not always in the perfect position, that is obvious.”