Wout van Aert admitted that it is "not normal" to win three diverse stages at the Tour de France for the second year in a row.
In 2021, the Jumbo-Visma rider won on the Mont Ventoux stage, the penultimate day time trial, and in the bunch sprint on the Champs-Élysées. This time around, Van Aert won solo into Calais, won an uphill sprint in Lausanne, and then won the penultimate day time trial once again. There is still the Champs-Élysées to come.
"It’s not normal," the Belgian said. "It is super special to achieve these things. Sooner than I think there will be a Tour where I don’t win a stage, and life moves on.
"How everything went these last three weeks is something you can’t predict. It’s a dream scenario, both for me and the whole team."
The 27-year-old dominated the opening of this Tour, finishing second on three consecutive stages before finally winning on stage four. It is scary to think about the number of victories he would have achieved if those second places - four in this edition - were converted into wins. He also finished third on stage 19 in the Pyrenees.
Van Aert now has nine stage wins on this biggest stage, putting him joint-14th on the overall ranking, and third in terms of active riders. There is no reason to suspect his wins will dry up soon.
"I’m probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in a Grand Tour", he said. "Apart from my knee injury just before the Tour I had a really perfect preparation. In 2020 I was also really good in the Tour, but from then to now I’ve really improved as a bike rider."
He came into this Tour targeting the green jersey, and it is a competition he has dominated, leading his nearest rival by 230 points. There was a concern that this might detract from his team's overall ambitions, particularly as he was supplied with a few riders to help his goals. However, Jumbo-Visma leave the Tour with not just the green jersey, but the yellow jersey and the polka dot jersey too.
"I think all my attacks through all the stages fitted perfectly with our team plan..." he argued. "Jonas [Vingegaard] was really flexible and also liked to race. It gives us more satisfaction to race in this way."
Asked what advantage he has over other bike riders, on a week that he rode away from Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) on the climb to Hautacam and then beat him soundly in the time trial, Van Aert said it was in the mind.
"I really do believe a lot of bike riders minimise their own capacities by thinking they are unable to do it," he said. "I just like to try things that seem impossible, this gives me the most motivation, the most attraction to go for performances like this. That’s maybe the secret behind it."
As he said, there will be a time, soon, where he stops winning at the Tour. Until then, however, he will keep trying the impossible.
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