Wout van Aert explains his decision to take control of the peloton on Tour de France stage 16

Despite his efforts, it didn't disrupt the general classification standings

Wout van Aert on stage 16 of the 2021 Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It had looked as if the peloton were going to roll into the finish on stage 16 of the Tour de France in easy mode - until Wout van Aert sped to the front.

In the final eight kilometres, the Belgian champion took control of proceedings in an attempt to set up Jumbo-Visma team-mate Jonas Vingegaard to try and take some time on his rivals for the podium.

With a category four climb in the finale before a 500m ascent to the line, Van Aert hoped that he and his teammate could distance some GC riders.

It was an interesting move considering nothing else had happened among the GC favourites all day, and with attention surely turned to the upcoming summit finishes.

"I realised that not all the GC riders were together," Van Aert explained afterwards. "In the end it didn't pay off, but I thought it was worth a try.

"Guillaume Martin attacked [on the final climb] but we were ready too. And Mike [Teunissen] suddenly informed me through the earpiece that not all the favourites were close.

"That was a signal to try something else. Too bad [it didn't work] but I thought it was worth a try."

In the end, in Saint-Gaudens, all the GC riders finished with the same time, meaning Vingegaard remains in third-place, just a second ahead of Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) in fourth.

Van Aert's strength in all terrain and his form - he won stage 11 that included two ascents of Mont Ventoux - means that when he goes off the front, the peloton is loathed to let him dictate the rhythm of the race.

He felt that reluctant again, but accepts that it's part of racing. "It wasn't easy," he admitted. "I am quite targeted.

"There are the boys in the mountains classification, UAE and Pogačar also do not like to see a man from Jumbo-Visma ride ahead, there are those who aim for a stage win who also do not like to see me go ahead...

"Now, if you're really super, it should be possible, but today it didn't work."

The 26-year-old revealed that he still has good condition ahead of the final five stages and hinted that he may go on the attack once again in the Pyrenees.

"Personally I feel good after the rest day," he said. "Tomorrow? We'll make those plans soon."

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Chris Marshall-Bell

Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.

Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.