Tour de France: Van Aert went out to avoid risks in stunning solo charge
Wout van Aert put any frustration from the first three Tour de France stages behind him as he won in emphatic fashion in Calais.
Van Aert finished second in each of the first three stages in Denmark but made sure of victory on Tuesday with a wonderful late surge that left the rest of the race in his wake.
Having worked with his Team Jumbo-Visma team-mates and a clutch of INEOS Grenadiers riders - including Adam Yates and general classification hopeful Geraint Thomas - to catch Anthony Perez (Cofidis) on the final climb with just over 10 kilometres remaining of the route from Dunkirk to Calais, Van Aert powered off down the home stretch.
A brilliant all-rounder, GC leader Van Aert turned what might have been a bunch sprint finish into a solo time trial, and he was able to celebrate as he crossed the line, assured of a well-earned success.
Having been pipped to the line by Fabio Jakobsen on Saturday and Dylan Groenewegen a day later, Van Aert was in no mood to leave anything to chance.
"I didn't want to take the risk anymore," Van Aert said when asked if he was tired of bunch sprints.
"We were in perfect position, it opened up on the climb. I came over the top alone... so I decided to go alone and then it was 10km of all-out suffering."
Asked what it was like to win a stage of Le Tour while wearing the famous yellow jersey, 27-year-old Van Aert, who now holds a 25-second lead in the GC standings, replied "this jersey gives you wings", seemingly referencing his celebration as he crossed the line, when he spread out and flapped his arms.
"This stage was most likely to end in a sprint in a bigger group, so it's one of the most difficult things to do to go alone," he continued. "I could only do it with the help of my team-mates. They did half the work, it was up to me to finish it off."
Philipsen left red-faced
Joy turned to embarrassment for Jasper Philipsen, who executed a perfect sprint finish to snatch second place.
He celebrated wildly as he crossed the line, only to be told that it was Van Aert who had already claimed victory. Such was the latter's lead, it is no surprise that Philipsen lost track.
1. Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) 4:01:36
2. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 4:01:44
3. Christophe Laporte (Team Jumbo-Visma) same time
4. Alexander Kristoff (Intermarche–Wanty–Gobert Materiaux) same time
5. Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) same time
1. Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) 13:02:43
2. Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) +0:25
3. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +0:32
1. Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) 170
2. Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 109
3. Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) 80
King of the Mountains
1. Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education–EasyPost) 11
2. Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) 1