ROCAMADOUR, France (VN) – Wout van Aert blazed to the Rocamadour hilltop fastest in stage 20 of the Tour de France to score his second hat trick of stage wins in two years while also bringing Jumbo-Visma the green jersey, and “supercombativity” award.
“Mr. Versatile” was christened all over again in the penultimate time trial of the Tour de France, but his treble was overshadowed by questions about performance.
“It will always be more difficult to keep this winning streak going,” Van Aert said of his consecutive triple triumph.
“I think I’m first to realize it’s not normal to win three stages, and it’s super special to achieve these things in consecutive Tours de France. For sure, there will come a point where I don’t win a stage, but life goes on.”
The consideration of what is “normal” permeated through Van Aert’s winner’s press conference after stage 20 of the Tour.
Van Aert was the man of the Tour with his antics in the high mountains, uphill sprints and rocketing long-range attacks. After winning the time trial Saturday, the 27-year-old has high odds of taking his 2022 win count to four in the Champs-Élysées sprint on Sunday.
“I think mentally, a lot of bike riders they minimize their capabilities by thinking they’re unable to do it, like ‘I’m too big to ride in the mountains.’ I just like to try things that I think are impossible,” Van Aert said.
“It gives me the most motivation and attraction to hunt performances like this. That’s maybe the secret behind it.”
With six stages for this Tour and Vingegaard booked into yellow after roaring to second in Rocamadour, Jumbo-Visma and its “masterpiece jersey” painted Denmark and France in its own color with a pallete of all-star riders.
Even the loss of co-captain Primož Roglič and climber ace Steven Kruijswijk on one disaster day didn’t put a stopper on the team swarming defending champion Tadej Pogačar and cornering the Slovenian ace at almost every turn.
“It’s just how everything went the last three weeks is something you can’t predict. it’s a dream scenario, both for me and the whole team,” Van Aert said. “We had our setbacks but what we take away from this Tour is just incredible.”
Winning clean: ‘We work super hard for this. Cycling has changed’
Jumbo-Visma’s “incredible” performance at this Tour raised some eyebrows. Such a display of utter team dominance across all fronts hasn’t been seen in decades.
Van Aert’s smile turned upside down when asked about the legitimacy of his team’s near-faultless three weeks.
“I don’t even want to answer this question, it’s such a shit question. It comes back every time after somebody is winning in the Tour,” was his swift and more-than surly response.
Jumbo-Visma is an open advocate of ketones, the nutritional supplement used increasingly widely in the WorldTour.
The Dutch crew invested in nutrition apps, high-altitude camps and R&D in its quest to better leading teams like Ineos Grenadiers or UAE Emirates after it spent years toiling in the pro cycling lower-leagues.
Vingegaard was subject to similar probing questions in his conference just minutes before Van Aert was hit with the inevitable.
“So now because we are performing on this level we have to defend ourselves? I don’t get it,” Van Aert continued.
“We work super hard for this. Cycling has changed and I don’t like it that we have to keep on replying on these things.”
Cycling’s murky past means it’s become a dark Tour tradition for the race to descend into question, allegations, and investigation.
Bahrain-Victorious was raided twice in the prelude to this year’s Tour, and was subject to Police probes the year before.
“We have to pass controls every moment of the year not only at the Tour de France. They come into our house,” Van Aert said. “We’re just training for it. If you look at how we’ve developed over these years as a team it’s not like we’ve come out of nowhere.”
Van Aert, Vingegaard and Jumbo-Visma’s performance at this year’s Tour was confident, crushing, and utterly complete.
The rest of the peloton will be looking to play catch-up, fast.