The first French stage of the 2022 ‘’Grande Boucle’’ offered an explosive final on Tuesday. Ten kilometres from Calais, Wout Van Aert took advantage of the last climb of the day to break away after a huge acceleration from his teammates. The yellow jersey then took a solo victory, a few seconds in front of the bunch that featured David Gaudu, who benefited from another great support of his teammates today. On the eve of the big “Roubaix” stage, towards Arenberg, Stefan Küng remains ninth in the general classification.
After a joyful stay in Denmark and a rest day devoted to the teams’ transfer, the Tour de France was back in France on Tuesday for a stage joining Dunkirk to Calais. Although barely fifty kilometres separate the two cities, the peloton had to cover a little more than 170 through a loop inland before returning along the coast. Like on Sunday, the fight for the breakaway was not the most exciting since Magnus Cort (EF Education-Easy Post) and Anthony Perez (Cofidis) went away as soon as the flag was out. Despite a small echelon in the first third of the race, the peloton remained calm for a long time. The chase only began eighty kilometres from the finish. The Dane then let the Frenchman take the lead alone and the pace within the pack gradually increased. For different interests, each team tried to position before the final climb of the day, the côte of Cap Blanc-Nez, located about ten kilometres away from the line. From the very bottom, Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert put the hammer down. Some splits occurred, and the yellow jersey finished the job off by going on his own approaching the summit. David Gaudu reached the top a dozen seconds later. “I did not necessarily expect it to be honest”, commented the Breton. “I thought it was going to be controlled by the sprinters’ teams, but you never know… Wout did a hell of a ride in the climb. We were not in a good position at the bottom, around fiftieth place. Luckily Kevin was there and paced me very well on the climb. At the top, we are not far from the group of favourites that was just behind Wout. It’s quite encouraging after a rest day.”
“We are ready”, David Gaudu
A few moments later, David Gaudu eventually bridged across to his GC rivals and many more riders then joined the main bunch. On the other hand, Wout Van Aert did not get caught and was therefore able to celebrate his first win in this Tour de France, after three runner-up places. David Gaudu, Stefan Küng, Kevin Geniets, Valentin Madouas and Thibaut Pinot finished in the main pack, eight seconds behind the winner. “It was more or less the stage we imagined, knowing there was not so much wind”, breathed Philippe. “In the final, Van Aert did this impressive attack, but as far as we were concerned, we had to stay around David and make sure to bring him as close as possible to the lead on the finish line. That’s what happened”. On Tuesday evening, the Groupama-FDJ leader is 29th overall, 1’15 behind Van Aert. Stefan Küng remains ninth, at 48 seconds. Tomorrow, one of the key stages of this 2022 edition will be on the program into Arenberg. “It will be a big day on the cobblestones”, foresees Philippe. “We consider this stage as a small Paris-Roubaix, without being really small since there are still nineteen kilometres of cobblestones. We’ll get the equipment we usually ride on Paris-Roubaix. Once again, the goal will be to stay together for as long as possible, and to be as numerous as possible with David until the end of the stage”. “We’ll need to have some luck on our side, and then to have good legs”, added David. “Everyone fears this day, but we’re ready and we want to go for it. I think we have the right team for it. We had one of the best Classic campaigns, we have 4-5 riders who do well on the cobbles. It will be down from the back, and you will always have to be in a good position. I trust my teammates. We need to be ready to roll up our sleeves”.