All-round superstar Van Aert jumped into the breakaway during the brutal stage 11, which featured two ascents of the iconic Ventoux, eventually dropping his rivals to take a remarkable solo victory.
The win, on one of the toughest days of this year’s Tour, came just one day after Van Aert finished second in a bunch sprint behind Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), cementing his position as one of the most exciting all-round talents in cycling.
Speaking after his victory in Malaucène, Van Aert said: “I’m lost for words, it’s so stupid to say. I didn’t expect to win this stage before the Tour de France, but yesterday I already believed in it.
“I asked the team to be the guy to go for the breakaways. It’s one of the most iconic climbs in the Tour, in the world - maybe it’s my best victory ever.”
It was a hard-earned victory by the Jumbo-Visma rider, as his team have suffered a lot of misfortune in this year’s race, including losing their general classification leader Primož Roglič in the first week after his injuries in a crash, with Robert Gesink and Tony Martin also abandoning the race before Van Aert’s victory.
But the team bounced back on stage 11, taking the stage with Van Aert while their new GC leader Jonas Vingegaard was aggressive on the final ascent of Ventoux and very nearly took time on yellow jersey Tadej Pogačar.
Van Aert, a winner of Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche and a three-time cyclocross world champion, suffered his own setbacks leading into the Tour, suffering from appendicitis and needing surgery that disrupted his training.
The 26-year-old said: “It’s emotional. Personally it was really hard to enter this Tour at the proper level.
“In the first week we had so much bad luck. Today we lost Tony Martin in a crash. This is so nice. Being motivated and keep believing, someday it will work out.
“I’m really proud.”
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