Wout van Aert has shown his mastery in a wide range of road events during August’s opening fortnight of rescheduled racing.
He started the month with victory on the gravel roads of Strade Bianche, before claiming victory in Milan-San Remo a week later, and then won the uphill sprint on the opening stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné. On the race’s two subsequent stages, he’s committed fully as a domestique to Jumbo-Visma teammate Primoz Roglic in the high mountains, confirming his multiple talents and team loyalty.
Van Aert drove full bore at the front of the bunch on the final climb to Saint Martin de Belleville on Friday's third stage at the Dauphiné, lining out the suffering peloton, with riders being shaken out, including Chris Froome. With 10 kilometres remaining, the Belgian pulled to the roadside and almost to a halt, his job for the day done, his teammates well set to make the most of it. Van Aert the consummate domestique, despite being the best rider in the world right now.
Asked at the finish what he made of his own achievements in the past few days, van Aert paused for a moment, admitting he has had little time to take it all in.
"I don't know. I’ve not thought about it actually. San Remo still feels like yesterday, but tomorrow [Saturday] it will already be a week ago. You don’t have too much time to think about it," Van Aert said.
He was more certain when asked what most impresses him about Jumbo-Visma stage race leader Roglic.
"I think it’s his confidence. Actually, it’s good to remember that he’s quite new to this sport but he acts like he is he’s been there for a while. He’s direct, he says what he wants and it’s really easy for us if you need to help him," Van Aert explained.
"I think compared to other GC riders, his biggest advantage [on the road] is that he always has a massive final kick. In the stages here the bonus seconds he’s taken give him a big advantage over the others."
Roglic is emerging as Jumbo-Visma's leader for the Tour de France if he can retain his solid form, with Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk strong alternatives or superb support. With Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas not yet at their best, Bernal also looks to be Team Ineos' Tour de France leader. However, Van Aert is not interested in Team Ineos' plans or problems, preferring to focus on Jumbo-Visma's strengths.
"We focus on the plan we have. We have three leaders but it’s clear to everyone that Primoz is for the moment a little bit stronger," he said.
"On the other hand, the other two guys are also experienced and super strong, so to have them on the team as well is definitely a big advantage."
Roglic, Dumoulin and Kruijswijk no doubt feel exactly the same way about Wout van Aert.