Belgian cycling phenomenon Wout van Aert celebrated a record-breaking 2022 Tour de France on Sunday when he was awarded the green jersey for accumulating the most points during the three weeks of road racing as well as the combativity award for the most aggressive rider.
The 27-year-old set the objective of winning the points classification at this year’s edition of the world-famous road cycling event and he achieved a record-breaking total of 480 points – beating Peter Sagan’s 2018 total of 477 – on the back of consistency and three-stage victories.
With points awarded to the riders who win or place high on stages, time trials and intermediate sprints throughout the iconic event, van Aert also finished second four times and had a third place to end 194 points more than Jasper Philipsen, the second-placed rider.
Not only that, van Aert played a huge part in making sure his Danish Jumbo-Visma team-mate, Jonas Vingegaard, won the overall race time classification and the coveted winner’s yellow jersey by being a key domestique (helper) when the Tour went into the mountains.
Here are 10 stand-out moments from his memorable 2022 Tour de France:
1) Stage 1: Strong start
van Aert, along with 176 fellow pro cyclists, began the 2022 Tour de France journey in the Danish capital of Copenhagen for the first of three stages in Denmark before the race moved to France.
The opening stage was an individual time trial and it’s a discipline that van Aert is very good at, having been a World Championship silver medallist, and he excelled in wet conditions to finish in second spot.
2) Stage 2: Yellow jersey
The second stage from Roskilde to Nyborg ended in a bunch finish with a sprint to the line and, even though van Aert is pipped on the line by Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen, he moves into the overall general time classification lead of the race and yellow jersey due to bonus seconds for finishing second.
He said: “Putting on the jersey gives a great feeling. I have been close to it many times, but this time I managed. Despite my two second places in the past stages, the yellow jersey is a nice reward.”
3) Stage 4: Going solo
The Tour is finally back on the French mainland, with a stage from Dunkirk to Calais as van Aert puts in an aggressive ride in the yellow, making a sensational solo escape 10km out from the finish and holding on to the finish line to give him his first win.
He declared: “The yellow jersey gives me wings. This is certainly one of my career’s most stunning victories.”
4) Stage 6: Out of yellow
van Aert loses the lead in the general time classification to Slovenian Tadej Pogačar on stage 6 from Binche to Longwy, but he goes down fighting having escaped in a three-man breakaway early in the stage and then going solo with 30km to go before being caught and passed 11km from the finish.
5) Stage 8: Sprint finish
The Tour heads into Switzerland for stage 8, and it proves memorable for van Aert as he takes his second stage win at Lausanne in a brilliantly timed sprint finish.
He revealed: “This was an important stage to increase my lead in the points. There was a lot of pressure on the final sprint… fortunately, I perform best when the pressure is high.”
6) Stage 15: Still strong
After several hard days in the mountains, where van Aert had been in the service of his team leader Vingegaard, the Belgian is allowed freedom on stage 15’s flat finish from Rodez to Carcassonne – eventually finishing second behind Philipsen for his sixth podium so far in this year’s race.
7) Stage 17: Mathematically certain
van Aert mathematically wraps up his green jersey points victory during stage 17 from Saint-Gaudens to Peyragudes, after finishing second in the intermediate sprint, to take his points total up to 399 points overall with just a maximum 220 points left to be won – some achievement.
8) Stage 18: Team sacrifice
On stage 18, van Aert gets into an early breakaway in the Pyrenees, then stays at the front of the race for most of the day before helping increase the pace at the front so teammate Vingegaard can leave behind his nearest challenger Pogačar. Vingegaard claims the stage win with van Aert eventually finishing third after a supreme effort.
9) Stage 20: Time trial win
Despite his gargantuan efforts on stage 18, van Aert recovers well and records his third stage win in a 40.7km time trial from Lacapelle-Marival to Rocamadour thanks to a 47m 59s is 24s time that smashes many out and out time trial specialists out of the park.
Vingegaard all but seals the yellow jersey win, sealing a special day for van Aert and Jumbo-Visma. He enthused: “I’m emotional. Today it was like a dream scenario. I thank all my teammates and the whole team for those special three weeks.”
10) Stage 21: Celebration time
van Aert opts out of contesting the sprint on the iconic finish of the Champs-Élysées in Paris on the final stage and, instead, rolls in across the finish line side-by-side with his five remaining Jumbo-Visma team-mates, including the 2022 Tour de France champion Vingegaard.
van Aert ends with 480 points, the most points in the modern era, and finishes 22nd overall in the general classification. He is also awarded the ‘super-combatif’ prize for being the most combative rider during this edition.