Making your team’s Tour de France squad in your WorldTour rookie season is a big deal for any rider but having an impact for your team at the iconic stage race is a next-level achievement.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo – Visma) drew some attention a few weeks away when his team announced he would be racing in his first Tour this year. With Van Aert originally expected to be a Classics specialist—a role he did well in this year—the decision signaled the increasing confidence the team has in the young star.
Three stages into the famed stage race, Van Aert is already playing the role of good teammate and then some.
Coming into the Tour, Jumbo – Visma’s designated sprinter was Dylan Groenewegen, but in Saturday’s Stage 1, the team already had to call an audible.
Groenewegen was involved in a crash 1.5 km from the finish, sending the team’s well-laid plans up in smoke. Stepping into the role of unexpected hero was Mike Teunissen, whom cyclocross fans may remember for such results as his U23 World Championship at the 2013 Louisville Worlds.
On a deceptive uphill sprint, Teunissen outdueled Peter Sagan (Bora – Hansgrohe) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) to take the Stage 1 win and give a Dutch rider the yellow jersey for the first time in 30 years.
With things not going to plan, announcers Phil Liggett and Bob Roll initially thought it was Van Aert who had won. A virtual victory, of sorts, for the young phenom.
In Sunday’s Team Time Trial, Van Aert was able to be a part of an actual stage win. With Teunissen in yellow—well, more yellow than the usual yellow—the train of Jumbo – Visma riders roared to a win by 20 seconds over Team INEOS.
The team win kept Teunissen in yellow and gave Van Aert the white jersey for top young rider. It also bumped him up to second place in the GC two stages in.
In Monday’s Stage 3, 2019 classics star Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) went solo to take the win. Like Teunissen, Alaphilippe also has some ’cross racing in the past. The Frenchman finished second by a tire knob at the 2010 Junior Cyclocross World Championships in Tabor.
Van Aert finished in the 11-man chase, 26 seconds back. The finish allowed him to keep the white jersey and still sit second in the GC. Not a bad start for a Le Tour le rookie.
Featured image: Elisa Haumesser