Jumbo-Visma’s Wout Van Aert took the honours in Stage 4 of the Tour de France to consolidate his overall lead on Tuesday.
The Belgian, who finished second in the opening three stages, kicked for home from 11 kilometres out to cross the finishing line eight seconds ahead of compatriot Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Deceuninck and his Jumbo-Visma teammate Christophe Laporte.
Philipsen pipped Laporte in a bunch finish, followed by Alexander Kristoff of Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert, TotalEnergies’ Peter Sagan and Luca Mozzato of B&B Hotels-KTM in the top six.
“I didn't want to take the risk any more of finishing in a bunch finish,” Van Aert said of his bid to breakaway early.
“We were in a perfect position thanks to Nathan [Van Hooydonck] and Stevie [Kruijswijk]. Tiesj [Benoot] took over and in the wheel it was already super hard. The goal was to go full to the top and see what happened.
“By going full I also put the others in a good position so they didn't have to ride. Then it was just 10km of all out suffering.”
Adam Yates, of INEOS Grenadiers, was not surprised by the tactics: “They did the same thing at Paris-Nice and we had a suspicion they might do it, and they did the same thing, sprinting full gas from the bottom to the top,” said the British rider.
“I just about ran out of legs just over the top but there was only one other guy there that was better than me, so not much more I could do.
“We went into the climb in a good position thanks to the guys, and I did my best to hold on for as long as possible.”
The UAE Team Emirates star Tadej Pogacar, chasing a hat-trick of Tour de France triumphs, finished safely in the bunch to finish eight seconds behind the winner.
“I was too far behind to follow so I tried to go as fast as possible to the top to see what the situation was,” the Slovenian said.
“It was OK, Van Aert dropped even his teammates and when I saw that, I was more calm and I didn't stress.”
Also in the bunch finish, eight seconds off the lead were Pogacar’s teammates Marc Soler of Portugal and Australian George Bennett.
In overall standings, Van Aert extended his lead over Yves Lampert (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) to 25 seconds, while Pogacar remained in third at 32 seconds followed by Mads Pedersen (Den/Trek-Segafredo), two seconds behind the reigning champion in fourth.