Could Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) actually win the yellow jersey at a future edition of the Tour de France?
That was the question posed on The Breakaway after the curtain call at the 2022 Tour, which saw the Belgian’s team-mate Jonas Vingegaard crowned champion after a thrilling three-week battle with Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates).
Van Aert has been the rider of the Tour with a string of devastating attacks and selfless teamwork helping deliver six stage wins for Jumbo, including three for himself and the green jersey.
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The prospect of a GC challenge was half-raised after he became only the third rider in history to win a mountain stage, time trial and bunch sprint at the same Tour in 2021, but those faint murmurings have sparked a full-on debate after an even more impressive 2022.
And such has been his impressive form in France, Eurosport experts Bradley Wiggins and Adam Blythe now believe Van Aert could win the yellow jersey – although they fear he would lose his wow factor by targeting it.
“He can [win it] but I just don’t see why he’d want to, he’d just lose so much of what he’s good at already,” said Blythe.
When quizzed by Orla Chennaoui about why anyone would not want to win yellow, Blythe continued: “It’s not a guarantee, is it?
“He can try and win the Tour de France but might risk losing all the classics that he does [and] everything else that we love about Wout van Aert would be forgotten about, that would be in the past, it wouldn’t be what he is.”
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Robbie McEwen interjected to say there was someone he knew who had changed their physique to become a GC champion… the man stood alongside him in Paris, 2012 champion Wiggins.
“There’s a guy I know who used to be a pretty handy track rider, who changed his body to win a Tour de France, it can be done,” said the 12-time stage winner.
Wiggins also wondered if there would be appetite in Van Aert’s homeland for him to win yellow.
“The sport needs people like Wout van Aert as well, let’s not forget,” he said.
“Belgium needs Wout van Aert to win the classics and be the top classics rider, I just think it's great that he can come on and win the green jersey. Do we need him to win the yellow as well?
“He could, but let's just leave it as it is because it's exciting isn’t it?”
Blythe added: “I just want him to stay the way he is, just get better at what he’s doing, but I think if he gets the yellow we’ll just lose all the excitement.”
'The strongest rider in this race' - Vingegaard on team-mate Van Aert
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The action is far from over! Stream the Tour de France Femmes live and on-demand from July 24-31 on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.
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