Wout of the blue: Van Aert explains his Tour de France breakaway tactics
Day-long escape is a 'nice way to honour yellow jersey' for protagonist of the Tour’s first week.
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LONGWY, France (VN) – The question at the finish of stage 6 of the 2022 Tour de France in Longwy on the lips of many was: what was Wout van Aert doing, going up the road in a 130-kilometer three-man breakaway?
“It was not my plan to try this in the morning. I hoped to be able to join a bigger breakaway, maybe defend yellow and even give it a go for the stage win,” Van Aert explained at the finish. Also, it seemed like it was a lot of interest in the break so I believed we’d end up with a lot of guys up the road.”
It was an action-packed beginning to the stage out of Binche, with attack after attack being chased down.
Van Aert spoke of his “disappointment” when only Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) and Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) joined him, but he was committed after two hours of trying to join the break.
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Honouring the jersey
“I thought I’ll try it and enjoy myself, and if it doesn’t work, then it’s a nice way to honour the jersey and my last day in it,” Van Aert said.
Though he finished seven and a half minutes down after being caught 11 kilometres from the finish, the valiant break caps a remarkable first six stages for Van Aert.
He has been a protagonist every day, winning a stage and finishing second three times. Needless to say, he’ll don the green jersey for stage 7.
Tired yet, Wout?
Some are wondering whether such activity will tap into his reserves and energy for the day, which finishes on La Planche des Belles Filles.
“Maybe, but tomorrow will be a day for Primož and Jonas. I try to recover and help them during the stage, but in the final, it’s up to them, Steven and Sepp, who are both going really well.”
“I think they survived well today and they could sit back in the bunch with me in front, which is also nice. Tomorrow, I try to put them in a good position towards the climb and hopefully they can be there with the best.”
Jumbo-Visma DS: if Wout was in bunch, break would have succeeded today
Speaking at the team bus post-stage, his Jumbo-Visma sports director Grischa Niermann talked about the difficulties they encounter as a by-product of Van Aert’s strength.
“We sort of knew that if we want to go for a sprint today, for sure nobody’s going to help us with Wout in this shape. And controlling the stage for 220 kilometres? That’s also what we didn’t want to do. So the tactic was to Wout in a big breakaway, and unfortunately ended up with three, so that was absolutely not the plan.”
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and one could say that the finish would have suited Van Aert if he’d been there in the small leading group into Longwy.
“Yes, but if Wout hadn’t been in the breakaway, it would have been a breakaway going to the finish. I’m 100 percent sure.
“In the end, we also didn’t really want to have a sprint because we knew under these circumstances, it would suit Pogačar the most. But there are also 22 other teams in the race and they want a sprint so we had to do the best out of it.”