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Tour de France

Tour de France: Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert on course for yellow jersey cobblestone clash

'Everyone within a minute has a chance ... 20 seconds in a Roubaix stage is not much:' Van der Poel spies yellow prize at end of Arenberg pavé.

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There’s a yellow jersey prize sitting at the end of the Hanson à Wallers cobblestone strip.

The two “kings of the classics” Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert are on course for a yellow-tinted tug-o-war in the hotly hyped cobblestone stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday.

“There is still a lot possible for yellow,” Van der Poel told Sporza on the rest day Monday. “Everyone within a minute certainly has a chance. I’m trying to go for stages anyway, but 20 seconds in a Roubaix stage is not much.”

At 5th overall and 20 seconds back, Van der Poel sits poised for a yellow jersey raid through the Tour’s tricky opening French phase this week.

But who is it that carried the maillot on his flight from Denmark? Wout van Aert.

A hat-trick of second-places leaves the Belgian lusting a stage victory more than ever, and the next week is his time to do it. Van Aert and his cobble-bashing wingmen used Monday’s rest day to scout the cobblestone strips to come Wednesday.

“What’s coming will be really demanding, every stage has some tricky parts, like the cobbles,” Van Aert said after his photo finish defeat Sunday. “It’s in my favor when the stages are a bit harder. I am looking forward to this.”

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Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard’s Tour title mission will be left in the wheels of Jumbo-Visma’s rouleur crew while Van Aert hunts after an elusive stage win that would also extend his time at the top of GC.

“We are looking forward to combining our two ambitions of green and yellow,” Van Aert said. “We are in a good place for green and for the GC. We stayed out of trouble in Denmark, and Jonas and Primož are looking strong.”

Stage 5 to Arenberg Porte du Hainault will be an early Tour classics clash to savor.

Van Aert and Van der Poel see opportunity in the 20 kilometers of Roubaix-style pavé on tap Wednesday. Both came close to Paris-Roubaix victory but still don’t have a cobblestone trophy in their cabinet. Van Aert is likely to line up Wednesday in yellow after Tuesday’s tricky sprint stage, bringing a new twist to the decade-long tale of Van der Poel and Van Aert.

Trek-Segafredo has numbers and ambition with Mads Pedersen, Quinn Simmons, and Jasper Stuyven.

And defending Paris-Roubaix champ Dylan Van Baarle? Unlike Van Aert, he may not have the free reign of his spring rivals as he shepherds his three GC contenders.

Van der Poel off the leash

Van der Poel laid relatively low since his dazzling Copenhagen time trial Friday. Two bunch sprints over the weekend saw “MvdP” on domestique duty.

“I hope [to show myself] the day after tomorrow in the Roubaix stage,” Van der Poel said Mondy. “A lot is possible there. With the exception of the prologue, it was in Denmark for Jasper Philipsen. That was agreed.”

This week will see Van der Poel hoping to steal the spotlight from archrival Van Aert.

Any of stages 4, 5, and 6 could see a return of the “Van der Poel show” that broke the box office at last year’s Tour. But for both Van der Poel and “Mr. Second Place” Van Aert, the cobblestone stage Wednesday might mean something more than any other this summer.

“I hope to find my good legs now, ” Van der Poel said. “Whether I have set my sights on the cobblestone ride? That is saying a lot, but if it suits me I can take my chance there.”

Tour de France stage 5 route profile
Prepare the popcorn now. 11 sectors of cobblestones will decide stage 5 of the Tour de France. (Photo: ASO)