Wout van Aert stunned himself by beating the best sprinters in the world on his debut at the Tour de France.
The rising Belgian star is racing his first season at WorldTour level and has taken the cycling world by storm with a string of mesmerising victories.
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Jumbo-Visma rider Van Aert is riding in the French Grand Tour for the first time and had a unique opportunity to replace his sprinter Dylan Groenewegen as the race split to pieces in crosswinds.
Van Aert, 24, stormed past proven sprinters Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb), narrowly beating Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Elia Viviani to the line.
Speaking after the stage, a slightly dazed Van Aert said: “I can’t believe I’ve beaten the fast guys in the sprint.
“I’m sorry, I can’t believe that I’ve won a stage of the Tour de France.
“It’s above anything else. I’ve felt over the last 10 days how big this race is and winning at my first attempt…wow.”
A straightforward stage 10 on paper became a manic dash for the line as the peloton cracked into pieces in the 50km as crosswinds buffeted riders across the road.
General classification hopefuls fell victim to the splits, with Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot being the biggest casualty, along with Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).
Jumbo-Visma’s sprinter and stage seven winner Dylan Groenewegen also found himself out the back, freeing up his lead-out rider Van Aert to fight for the stage.
The former three-time cyclocross world champion proved his pure talent and a versatility at the Critérium du Dauphiné on the eve of the Tour de France 2019, winning a time trial and a bunch sprint, and he didn’t falter at his first opportunity to fight for a stage in the Tour.
Van Aert said: “It became quite nervous in the final and I managed to stay at the front and get our leader Steven [Kruijswijk] in position.
“Unfortunately Dylan was not in the first group and I was allowed to go for the sprint. From the last sprint I learned I needed to go quite early so I went 250 metres from the finish.
“It was close with Viviani at the end, but I won it and even one centimetre is enough.”
Van Aert’s victory is the fourth of the race for Dutch squad Jumbo-Visma, after Mike Teunissen stunned the sprinters in the opening stage, the team time trial and Groenewegen’s win on day seven.