Three-time cyclo-cross world champion Wout van Aert pipped Italian Elia Viviani to the line to take his first ever Tour de France stage win in Albi today.
Diminutive Australian Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) finished third on the 10th stage from St Flour, a day in which the wind obliterated the peloton and left several favourites’ hopes of yellow all but in tatters.
With the crosswinds playing their part and the peloton being driven by first Deucenninck-Quick-Step and then Ineos, the peloton split around 35km from the finish into several splinter groups, resulting in GC favourites such as Thibaut Pinot, Jakob Fuglsang, Rigoberto Uran and Richie Porte losing 1:40 to riders such as Geraint Thomas, Adam Yates, Nairo Quintana, Egan Bernal, Enric Mas, Julian Alaphilippe and Romain Bardet.
“I can’t believe it, beating all those fast guys in the sprint,” said Van Aert, who showed that he was fast becoming one of the high-profile sprinters in the peloton after collecting two stage victories and the green jersey at the Critérium du Dauphiné just before the start of this year’s race.
“It’s above anything else. I felt it in the last 10 days, how big this race is. Winning in my first attempt – wow.”
Van Aert added that it became nervous in the finale, but he managed to stay in front and keep their leader, Steven Kruijswijk, in position.
“Unfortunately, Dylan [Groenewegen] was not in the first group and I was allowed to go for the sprint.
“From the last one, I learned I had to go early, so I went 250m from the line. It was close with Viviani, but one centimetre is enough.”
Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was left best placed from the contenders who lost time, ending the day in 10th overall, 2:33 behind overall leader Alaphilippe (Deceunninck-Quick-Step).
“The crosswinds made everything really nervous, but we knew we had to stay alert and did a great job together,” said the yellow jersey.
“The entire team was at the front and went full gas to try to win the stage with Elia. We didn’t take the victory, but we rode like a great squad today and we can be proud of that.”
Alaphillipe heads the general classification by 1:12 ahead of Thomas (Ineos) going into the first rest day with the latter’s teammate, Bernal, a further four seconds adrift.