Van Aert triumphant as O'Connor secures fourth overall

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) continued his brilliant Tour de France with a dominant Stage 20 time trial victory, winning the race by 21 seconds ahead of Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep).

A warm, windy day around the Libournais vineyards near Bourdeaux saw the riders buffeted by head and cross winds throughout the twists and turns of the 30-kilometre course. It was the consistent power of van Aert that shone through on the flat course after he finished fourth on a similar length course on Stage 5 of the Tour.

"Comparing with the first time trial (that) was more rolling," said van Aert. "With my weight it’s more in my advantage than the first one which was more punchy. I think it was a perfect day.

"Winning a Tour de France time trial has been one of the biggest objectives in my career. I’ve been really focused on this objective for the last couple of days and I’m so happy I could finish it off."

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Van Aert had to sit and watch the key general classification stars try and match his time, but it turned out that he wouldn't be pushed too close, with teammate Vingegaard the only man to finish close finishing in third.

“It was definitely a hot seat the first couple of minutes, I was completely overheated when I sat down," said van Aert. "Afterwards, it’s always stressful but I guess I have a nice margin on the specialists like Asgreen and Kung. When I saw the intermediates of the GC guys, my hopes were raising.

“It's been a really hard Tour de France for our team but we always fought through. We have three stage wins, Jonas in second on GC.”

After a few predicted close battles for the top ten overall, there was no change in the standings by the end of the stage, with the tightest battle between O'Connor and Kelderman, with the Australian just holding onto fourth overall by 11 seconds.

Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) was the first of the expected top finishers to set a good time, 36 minutes and 46 seconds on the clock when the young Danish crossed the finish line. 

His time wasn't to last long, with Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) scorching through the time checks with a late-timed charge to best Bjerg's time by eight seconds and move into the hot seat as the finish-line leader. The Swiss rider has an extended stay as the fastest recorded time, before another Danish rider came to the fore.

Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) set a new level with his ride, posting a finishing time of 36 minutes and 14 seconds at an average speed of 51 km/hr. 

Even a blistering start from Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) didn't end up beating the time of Asgreen. The European time trial champion set a mark ten seconds faster than Asgreen at the first time point, but paid the price for his early effort as he faded in the latter stages and finished 17 seconds behind Asgreen.

Australians set some good times, with Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) in 21st and Harry Sweeny (Lotto Soudal), 18th,  both finishing with strong performances. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange), Richie Porte (INEOS Grenadiers) and Simon Clarke (Qhubeka-Nexthash) took the day a bit easier, posting fair times at the finish. 

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) came out really fast, posting a quicker time even than Küng at the first time check and continued to power his way through the largely flat course. He finished the time trial the fastest, 35 minutes and 53 seconds with the general classification stars still to come.

The battles for the time trial in the top five were centred around Australian Ben O'Connor (AG2R-Citroen) and Wilco Kelderman (BORA-hansgrohe) fighting it out for fourth overall, while Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) was battling it out with Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers).

O'Connor had a 32-second buffer over Kelderman, and while the Dutchman went really deep, drool and sweat dripping from him in the heat of the day, he was largely held by the West Australian, at near the same time at both the intermediate time checks. 

Kelderman set a time of 38 minutes and 13 seconds, with O'Connor finishing in 38 minutes and 34 seconds, giving O'Connor fourth position by 11 seconds over the Dutchman.

Vingegaard blitzed the early time checks, immediately showing his superiority to Carapaz in the battle against the clock, the only race for him being for as high a position as possible on the stage. He finished third on the stage, with a time of 36 minutes and 25 seconds.

Tadej Pogačar confirmed his place in the yellow jersey with a less fluid performance than his past time trial successes, finishing in eighth position on the day, but kept his lead over five minutes on the overall standings, with just the final stage into Paris left to navigate.

The Tour de France concludes with the traditional finish in Paris on the Champs-Élysées for Stage 21. Watch the action from the later start time of 2300 AEST on SBS and SBS OnDemand, with the SKODA Tour Tracker and the racing action starting at 0005 AEST.

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5 min read
Published 18 July 2021 at 12:47am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS