Wout van Aert leaves Tour de France, with wife Sarah due to give birth 'imminently'

Jumbo-Visma rider says that decision to head home, with four stages still to come, is not a dilemma

Wout van Aert on stage 15 of the 2023 Tour de France
(Image credit: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Wout van Aert will not start stage 18 of the Tour de France, with the Jumbo-Visma rider instead heading home as his wife Sarah is set to give birth imminently.

The news was announced in a video released by the team on Twitter on Thursday morning, which was recorded on Wednesday morning, ahead of stage 17. 

In the video Van Aert said: "Things are starting to get a bit tight at home. In consultation with the team, we have decided that my place is now at home. We have been seeing the doctor at home for the last few weeks. He has assessed that labour is imminent. That's why we have made this decision."

With his team leader Jonas Vingegaard now over seven minutes in front at the top of the general classification, the decision might be a bit easier now than if it had come earlier in the race.

Last week, Van Aert was forced to deny rumours that he was leaving the race after stage 10, a rumour that it emerged had started with Lidl-Trek's Mattias Skjelmose. Now, the news is true.

Van Aert said in the video: "On the one hand, it's a strange feeling, but it's not a dilemma. It's an easy decision. I always thought that I would go home when my wife indicated she needed me. That time has come. So in that respect, it's not a dilemma. 

"I told the boys at dinner last night. I am delighted that they have all understood the decision and are one hundred percent behind me. Those even guys will perform well for the rest of the Tour. Everything will be fine."

"I started the Tour hoping to make it to Paris," he continued. "I was in touch with home every day. My wife had a short line to the doctor. We had agreed that if she was close to giving birth, and me being on the Tour no longer felt comfortable, I would go home. In agreement with the team, we knew that's was how we would handle it."

It had been the "Tour of 'not quite'" for Van Aert, with seven top ten results, including four podium finishes, but no stage victory. It is the first Tour he has ever raced in without taking a win.

"I often had the legs to win the stage, but it didn't happen," the Belgian said. "It gives me mixed feelings. Results are one thing, the feeling on the bike is another. It was super good. The experience with the guys was excellent. 

"To be able to fight for our goals again gave me motivation. I look back on this Tour in a positive way. But I will always remember this Tour as the one where I called home every day, and this is where I will leave the Tour."

It is expected that Van Aert will appear at the World Championships, which are just weeks away in Glasgow. 

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.