Belgian all-rounder Wout van Aert, a key teammate of Tour de France leader Jonas Vingegaard, left the race to be with his wife Sarah ahead of the birth of their second child.
Van Aert, a versatile cyclist capable of winning on all terrains, has been a fundamental support for Vingegaard since the start of the Tour. But with Vingegaard having opened up a large gap in the general classification with a tough mountain stage to go, Van Aert’s presence was not considered essential.
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«As everyone knows Sarah is pregnant, things are starting to get a bit difficult at home,» Van Aert said in a video posted by his Jumbo-Visma team ahead of Stage 18 on Thursday. «In consultation with the team, we have decided that my place is now at home.»
Van Aert added that leaving the race is «a strange feeling, but it’s not a dilemma.»
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Vingegaard, the defending champion, toppled Tadej Pogacar on the final big stage in the French Alps on Wednesday to increase his overall lead to 7 minutes 35 seconds. Barring one big crash, it looks like he’s going to win his second Tour title on Sunday.
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Van Aert has nine career stage wins on the Tour, but none this month.
«I often had the legs to win a stage, but it didn’t happen,» he said. «But I will always remember this Tour as the one where I called home every day.»