Christophe Laporte: ‘Wout told me today that it was for me rather than for him’

The last time Wout van Aert told Laporte that the day was for him was at Paris-Nice, and what a day that was. Today was even better.

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Stage 19 looked likely to be a day for the opportunity-starved fast men, but if opportunists managed to punish the pure sprinters, then there was one obvious contender: Wout van Aert. However, it was the Belgian’s teammate Christophe Laporte who was given the chance to go for glory, and take glory he did.

“I still can’t believe it, I’m so happy. I just can’t believe it,” Laporte said after becoming the first French stage winner at this year’s Tour de France. “The team trusted me today, Wout told me today that it was for me rather than for him. With three kilometres to go, we made sure that Jonas was in a safe place. I then jumped to come back [to the break] and I launched from a long way out, but it’s unbelievable that it came off.”

The last time Wout van Aert told Laporte the day was his was at Paris-Nice, and we all know how that ended. This time though, the Belgian’s go-ahead was only the starting point. It was his own raw instinct and power that got Laporte the victory he so deserved.

Laporte won the first stage of Paris-Nice earlier this year after going on the attack with teammates Van Aert and Roglič.

“I’m very happy for Christophe and I’m very happy for the French. It was a super special win. It was an exciting final,” team director Merijn Zeeman said at the finish. “[Today] was just about protecting Jonas [Vingegaard], of course, we knew the parcours very well and that it was tricky with narrow parts and we wanted to hit the front there but you saw that the sprinters’ teams had to work really hard already, also in the last days, and there was a lack of control.”

After successfully protecting Jumbo-Visma’s leader in yellow through the crosswinds, Van Aert was ever-present towards the front in the run-in as the peloton steadily ate into the gap of a late three-man attack. The green jersey’s day was done just outside 3 km to go, and as the gap to the leaders narrowed approaching the flamme rouge, Laporte surged across what remained of the gap – just a few bike lengths – and used their last-ditch acceleration as a launchpad to victory on the slight uphill finale.

“The breakaway almost made it, but Christophe obviously had very good legs, he used the opportunity and he followed his instinct,” Zeeman said. “This was not the plan, this was a rider who followed his instinct and he got a great reward.”

Friday’s victory is a fifth for Jumbo-Visma at the team’s extraordinary Tour de France, a few instances of bad luck notwithstanding. The Dutch outfit’s six remaining riders go into the final weekend leading the points classification with Wout van Aert, and both general and mountains classifications with Jonas Vingegaard, both riders also carrying a pair of stage wins.

“I’ve been really happy at this Tour de France, even if I haven’t had any massively positive results, just because I’ve enjoyed working with the team and what we’ve achieved,” Laporte said. “Today, they gave me this opportunity and it became really special as a consequence.

“I’m really pleased, I’m at a loss for words. I’m happy to have given the public something to celebrate and I hope that they’re happy for me.”

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