Will Wout wait?

On the cobbled stage 5 of the Tour de France Wout van Aert has a choice.

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After three second places in a row, Wout van Aert took his first stage win of the 2022 Tour de France in emphatic fashion.

Hitting out on the ramp before the finish line, the Belgian took Jumbo-Visma team-mate Jonas Vingegaard and Ineos Grenadiers’ Adam Yates with him before dropping them too. One man vs an entire peloton. For Wout van Aert that’s doable.

As well as the stage win and a stint in yellow, Van Aert is making headway in the points competition. On their current trajectory, he should be defending his Champs-Élysées sprinter’s world title in the green jersey.

But is that enough?

This is an important question because Jumbo-Visma, obviously, also have the ambition of putting the yellow jersey on the back of either Primož Roglič or Jonas Vingegaard.

With the cobbles of stage 5 looming, GC teams getting their leaders safely through to the finish is of the utmost importance. Wout van Aert has two, one more than most other teams. Wout van Aert also has the cobble-crushing ability to double his stage win tally as well as protect his yellow jersey.

He has been patient this Tour. “Maybe in the whole world I was the one who was the most patient and confident that the victory would come,” he said after stage 4, but how much patience does he have?

Jumbo-Visma have the likes of Christophe Laporte and Tiesj Benoot who can also do a job of guiding Roglič and Vingegaard safely through the day’s racing. They don’t necessarily need Van Aert to hang back if the GC pair can’t follow his wheel well enough. How much of a demand Van Aert has made to Jumbo-Visma team management for a free role this Tour is information we’re not privy to and his post-stage press conference didn’t exactly give us a clearer answer.

“It’s always hard to predict how the stage will go,” he explained. “For sure tomorrow will be important to stay out of trouble for Jonas and Primož. We go into this stage with a lot of confidence and try something even in the GC. Half of the team are Classics guys who are used to hitting the cobbles. Like me, they’re looking forward to doing a stage like this at the Tour de France. If we can help Jonas and Primož that would be really good.”

On today’s stage four, Van Aert first dropped Roglič, dragging a rival in Yates clear, before also dispensing with Vingegaard.

“Up to now it was not my role to look behind me for Jonas and Primož,” Van Aert said. “Even Sepp and Steven, who are here for the mountains, try to help wherever they can. It’s always something we try to combine and that’s not easy, but on the other hand the Tour is demanding always. I can’t imagine riding it just at the back of the bunch and looking around. It’s a good feeling to have a goal every day, and this motivates me. I don’t think this will be a problem.”

Then, the question came as to what would have happened if on today’s stage Roglič would have been in serious difficulty. Expressionless Van Aert said: “Then I would have turned around and gone back to Primož.”

Tomorrow on the cobbles, the truth will be laid bare.

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