Raucous crowds cheered Wout van Aert to a frantic stage 11 win on the Tour de France on Wednesday after a double ascent of Mont Ventoux. UAE leader Tadej Pogacar retained the overall lead by more than five minutes over his pursuers. Exultant Jumbo rider Van Aert crossed the summit of ‘the Giant of Provence’ alone in his Belgian champion’s shirt on a baking day.
“There’s loads of Belgians here,” said Van Aert, who played to the crowds bending his ear to their acclamation.
“It’s my best victory ever,” said Van Aert, who finally reaped his reward, after his attacking riding helped light the Tour fuse on the opening stages.
On this iconic climb, where Tom Simpson died in 1967 and where Eddy Merckx, Marco Pantani and Chris Froome climbed to memorable wins, Van Aert’s effort was magnificent.
Behind him his teammate Jonas Vingegaard climbed into the top three, crossing the line in a small group that included Pogacar, Rigoberto Uran and Richard Carapaz.
Pogacar leads Colombian Uran of EF Education by 5:18, Dane Vingegaard is third 14 seconds further back and a second ahead of Ecuadorian Carapaz of Ineos. Vingegaard dropped Pogacar after a struggle over the final 3km of the last ascent, only for the Slovenian’s group to catch up on the 15 mile descent.
“I couldn’t follow him, the heat, Ineos, there was a lot going on,” said a cool and relaxed looking Pogacar at the finish line.
With a vehicle ban on Ventoux, police searched the vast crowds ascending on foot for alcohol and handed out trash bags after 40 ton of rubbish were left behind last time the Tour climbed the mountain .
STAGE 11 HIGHLIGHTS
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini