After taking his third victory in four race days since racing restarted on Wednesday's opening stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Wout van Aert has said that he will have his own chances at the Tour de France too.
The Belgian is set to play a super-domestique role in the coming weeks, with four tougher summit finishes coming at the remainder of the Dauphiné and a Tour de France which will see Jumbo-Visma give total support to their three general classification leaders in Primož Roglič, Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk.
At the stage finish in Saint-Christo-en-Jarez, Dumoulin said that Van Aert may not have many chances to ride for himself as the squad goes all-in for the GC in France. However, Van Aert has stated that he will in fact have his own opportunities at the Tour. Last year, remember, he sprinted to a stage victory in Albi, as Kruijswijk went on to finish third overall.
"I haven't seen if there'll be any chances for me on the Tour yet," Van Aert told Het Laatste Nieuws. "But if there's a chance for me in a small stage race of five days, there will undoubtedly be chances in the Tour, which lasts for three weeks.
"A lot of people in Belgium might have been a bit worried that I wouldn't get a chance, so you can see that the fear was unjustified. In a stage like today we seized the chance. For the upcoming stages we have to be realistic; it will really be up to the climbers and we have to turn to the tables."
Van Aert, who won Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo earlier this month, said that the decision for him to go for the win in Saint-Christo-en-Jarez was made during the stage, having passed through the finish earlier in the day.
"The intention was to see how it would go and actually, it felt ok," he said. "We were able to see the finish at the first crossing thirty kilometres before the end. Then we decided that I would ride for the victory. Apparently, that was a good choice. A stage win should never be missed.
"It wasn't just a last-minute decision. If I felt good in the final, then it would be for me. If it would be much harder, it would be a finish for Roglič. When you see how all those guys worked for me, even the leaders in the end, I just had to finish it.
"I know that I am very well and that the climbing is going very well the last weeks. I knew that in that respect I would be one step ahead of guys like Sagan, for whom the finish would be good, but for whom it would probably be too tough along the way."
Van Aert's win on stage 1, from a group of 56 heavy on climbers as versatile, punchy sprinters like Peter Sagan and Sonny Colbrelli finished minutes down, was a display that he's in top shape to work for his team leaders at the Tour. The 25-year-old said that he has lost weight in order to compete on terrain usually out of his comfort zone.
"I have a very good weight," he said. "Of course, I am still a lot heavier than the real climbers. At some point I could still gain by losing muscle that I don't need. Then you end up with the upper body – you don't need broad shoulder to ride fast. It's better to get rid of that."
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