Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) triumphed on stage four of the Tour de France, extending his lead in the yellow jersey as the overall leader of the race in the process.
After finishing second on the opening three stages of the 2022 Tour, Van Aert decided to take matters into his own hands and attack early with 11km remaining, on the final categorised climb of the day. Initially his Jumbo-Visma teammates joined him, with Ineos Grenadiers the only other team able to follow.
However, the Belgian kicked again during the ascent as he built up a considerable gap over the other riders, rising to around 30 seconds heading into the final 6km. Despite the best efforts from the peloton, no rider could catch Van Aert in the closing stages.
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) managed to steal second in the sprint for the remaining riders, and he even thought he had won the race after failing to realise Van Aert had crossed the line eight seconds earlier. Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) crossed the line in second.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After a successful Grand Départ in Demark for the opening three stages of the 2022 Tour de France and a rest day on Monday, the peloton started its French journey in Dunkirk. Heading towards Calais, riders would have to contend with small hills for the majority of the 171.5km route along the coast.
Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) came into the fourth stage wearing the yellow jersey, the Belgian extending his lead over Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) to seven seconds following the sprint to Sønderborg.
Following his exploits as a breakaway rider on stages two and three, Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) signalled his intentions early on in today's stage once again by building up a considerable distance out front. Anthony Perez (Cofidis) joined him in the breakaway, which rose to more than three minutes after just 7km of racing.
The first of six categorised climbs of the day, Côte de Cassel, came after 30km, which also featured a brief cobbled sector. While it offered only one point, both riders seemed intent on taking the advantage. Perez launched his sprint fairly early, allowing Cort to come through and pass the summit first. By now, their gap to the peloton stood at over five minutes, though it did push the seven-minute mark on the approach to the Côte de Cassel.
Soon after, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl opted to increase the pace at the front of the peloton, splitting the bunch in two. The second group were distanced from the main bunch, with the pace also bringing the deficit down to 3-30 to the breakaway riders.
However, this didn't last long. The peloton soon came back together, and at the 100km-to-go mark Cort and Perez's lead rose to seven minutes - a considerable gap considering the somewhat unnecessary increase in pace from the peloton.
Over the next three categories climbs, Cort proceeded to pass each summit first. All the while, though, the peloton ate into the breakaway's gap out front, reducing their lead to just 3-30 once again over the fourth climb, Côte de Harlettes - with 70km remaining.
The gap continued to fall over the next 20km due to the punchy hills, and into the final 50km the duo out front were just 1-35 ahead. Having won five of the six climbs on stage four, Magnus Cort eventually called time on his escapade out front. The peloton caught the Dane with 42km remaining, but Perez still attempted to attack the stage by himself.
He managed to maintain a lead of over a minute heading into the final 30km, but the peloton seemed comfortable in catching Perez on the run to the finish at Calais. Unfortunately for the Frenchman though, he ploughed a lone furore out front. Despite working hard, the peloton reduced the deficit over the next 15km as each team tried jostling for position to get themselves into the optimal place for the likely bunch sprint.
Lotto Soudal, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, Jumbo-Visma and BikeExchange-Jayco all powered the bunch on, preparing to get their respective fast-men Caleb Ewan, Fabio Jakobsen, Wout Van Aert and Dylan Groenewegen at the head of the group.
The peloton eventually caught Perez with 11km left in the stage, heading up the final categorised climb of the day. At this point, Jumbo-Visma had dramatically upped the tempo, splitting the peloton up the hill. Only Ineos Grenadiers were attempting to keep pace through Adam Yates, but Wout Van Aert attacked again on what seemed an attempt for the stage win - dispelling the notion the stage would inevitably finish with a bunch sprint.
Pushing speeds of 70kmh while wearing the yellow jersey, Van Aert managed to build up a gap of 22 seconds heading into the final 7km. The peloton started to come back together as Van Aert powered away, but the Belgian's gap continued to gradually rise to 27 seconds, with just 4km remaining.
With 2km until the finish, the gap was 20 seconds. The peloton desperately tried to reel the yellow jersey wearer back in, but Van Aert seemed imperious as he continued to turn the pedals at an impressive rate.
Indeed, despite the peloton's best efforts, Van Aert couldn't be caught. His victory comes after three stages of finishing second, helping him to extend his lead on both GC and in the points classification.
Meanwhile, Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) had a moment of slight embarrassment after crossing the line in second - it seems the Belgian thought he had won the race, before realising Van Aert had actually finished further up the road.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2022 STAGE 4 RESULTS
1. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 4-01-36
2. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Deceuninck, at 8s
3. Christopher Laporte (Fra) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) TotalEnergies
6. Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels-KTM
7. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
8. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
9. Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
10. Benjamin Thomas (Fra) Cofidis
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FOUR
1. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 13-02-43
2. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 25s
3. Tadej Pogačar (Svn) UAE Team Emirates, at 32s
4. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at 36s
5. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Deceuninck, at 38s
6. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 40s
7. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma, at 41s
8. Adam Yates (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 48s
9. Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ, at 48s
10. Tom Pidcock (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 49s
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1