Wout van Aert watched his team leader defend the yellow jersey in a time trial in the penultimate day of the Tour with far more relish than he did two years ago at La Planche des Belles Filles.
It certainly helped that Tadej Pogacar had a far larger deficit to close than the 57 seconds he overturned to reel in Primoz Roglic back in 2020 on what was the darkest day in Jumbo-Visma’s history – a day which spawned the now ubiquitous meme of Tom Dumoulin and a masked Van Aert watching on, helpless and in horror, as the Slovenian debutant pulled the rug from under his compatriot’s feet.
If Roglic crashing out of the 2021 Tour prolonged the pain for Jumbo-Visma, that race also sowed the seeds of the team’s greatest moment: Jonas Vingegaard riding to second place in his debut Tour in Roglic’s absence gave a glimmer of what was to come this July.
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But no one could have imagined retribution and redemption to have come so emphatically and so sweetly as it has. Truth be told, Vingegaard had already wrapped up the Tour long before he rolled down the ramp en route to Rocamadour – his Van Aert-powered win at Hautacam putting the final nail in Pogacar’s coffin and ensuring that, even with a barnstorming ride, the 23-year-old Slovenian would not be able to turn the tables on Jumbo-Visma at the eleventh hour again.
In fact, only Vingegaard could stop Vingegaard from becoming the first Danish rider to win the Tour since Bjarne Riis in 1996 – and therefore the first Dane, let’s be honest, to win the world’s biggest bike race fair and square.
Forty-eight hours after Pogacar’s crash on the descent of the Col de Spandelles took the wind out of the white jersey’s sails, Vingegaard’s own flirtation with downhill calamity may have brought about a sense of deja-vu. But the Dane just managed to stay upright after overcooking a bend on the final descent of the Tour – giving him, perhaps, the wake-up call he needed to knock it back and savour the moment.

‘Knock it of off a bit’ - Vingegaard nearly goes off road on tight bend

After all, Vingegaard had been up on Pogacar at all the time checks – up, indeed, on his own teammate – and the yellow jersey was very much guaranteed barring calamity. And calamity is what Jumbo-Visma have done their best to avoid in this Tour, a crazy hour over the cobblestones of northern France aside.
Even without Vingegaard knocking it off, he would have been hard pressed dislodging Van Aert in the clubhouse. The green jersey had ridden such an accomplished TT that he had Bradley Wiggins purring from the back of his motorbike – something he’s done a lot in the vicinity of Van Aert these past few weeks.
"I'll tell you what - it's a joy to follow this man on a push bike,” Wiggo said, predicting the green jersey would come home a minute faster than anyone else. “It's an absolute privilege to sit behind someone so aesthetically beautiful on a bike. I will hand you back to the commentary team and continue to enjoy it – because it turns me on."

‘A joy’ – Wiggins predicts Van Aert will be 'minute quicker' than anyone else on TT

Van Aert may have taken 42 seconds off the target time set by world champion Filippo Ganna, but Wiggins soon had to recalibrate his predictions once the last three riders rolled down the ramp and matched the Belgian for speed at the first intermediate check.
With Vingegaard fastest again at the second and third check, Wiggins was revelling in the Dane becoming “the first rider since me, 10 years ago, to win a time trial in yellow,” somewhat forgetting the fact that Chris Froome managed this feat twice in 2013 and 2016…
But Wiggins’s words did at least allow us to compare this Jumbo-Visma team to the dominant Team Sky outfit of 2012. The parallels are clear: six stage wins each for three different riders, plus the yellow jersey. But Jumbo-Visma have gone that little bit better by bringing home the green and polka dot jerseys too – plus there’s still time to enter seventh heaven…

Watch incredible moment Van Aert & Vingegaard break down as enormity of achievement hits

Asked by Bernie Eisel what he envisaged for Stage 21 in Paris, Wiggins said: “I think Wout van Aert, again. I mean, what a rider and what a team. The display they put on this week has been phenomenal – the last three weeks – but Van Aert coming to the fore today and winning again, and Jonas Vingegaard winning the Tour in impressive style. It’s been an amazing Tour. But tomorrow – who wouldn’t expect Van Aert to win?”
“And will we see the yellow jersey do the lead out like 10 years ago?” Eisel asked with a cheeky grin – recalling the moment Wiggins piloted world champion Cavendish to glory on the Champs-Elysees.
“I dunno if he’s that good, is he?” Wiggins joked. “Of course, he is. He’s a class act and definitely supersedes me in every way – in the mountains especially. Yeah, Jonas, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him on the lead-out tomorrow for Wout van Aert.”

‘Torn up the rulebook!' - The 'pure dominance' of Jumbo-Visma

Regardless of whether Van Aert can make it four stage wins in a row – and seven in total – for Jumbo-Visma at the end of this thrilling Tour, the events at Rocamadour have already ensured that the team hasn’t so much come full circle as run rings around those lingering demons from 2020.
Instead of watching in shocked disbelief, Van Aert could run out and greet his teammate in yellow over the finish line to kick off jubilant and emotional scenes from a team that has bounced back from a series of knocks in spectacular fashion.
Quizzed after failing to win the Tour for the first time in his career, Pogacar said: “There’s big motivation for next year. After these three weeks a lot has been learned and we [UAE Team Emirates] can improve a lot, so I’m looking forward to new challenges.”
The very fact that a phenomenon like Pogacar will now enter next year’s Tour not as favourite but as a rider needing to rise to fresh challenges is proof of this terrific turnaround at the top of the sport. Jumbo-Visma could dominate cycling in the same way that Team Sky did in their heyday – but in a way that enthrals fans as opposed to exhaust them. And peerless Van Aert and Vingegaard are at the centre of this brave new world.
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