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Wonder Wout

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108th Tour de France 2021 - Stage 21 Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It isn’t coming home. Or maybe it’s staying home. Yes, the record for most stage victories in a Tour de France, seemingly on its way to the UK on the back of Mark Cavendish, will stay stretched across the English Channel between the homes of Cavendish and the legendary Eddy Merckx.

Eddy Merckx. Wout Van Aert just saved Eddy Merckx’ record. He will never, ever, ever pay for a beer in Belgium again.

TDF-1982-HINAULT
Hinault wins the Paris sprint. In yellow.
Photo credit should read STAFF/AFP via Getty Images

A few other remarkable things about Wout’s win:

  • He won a mountain stage, an ITT and a sprint. This has happened before, but you have to go back to 1979 to the reign of Bernard Hinault, who won the final sprint in Paris while in the maillot jaune, which he secured with a mix of ITT and mountain stage wins. That is who we are comparing Wout to.
  • Guys have won mountain and sprint stages, but it’s pretty rare and to do it in the same Tour is even more rare. Thor Hushovd, most recently, won a stage that went over the Col d’Aubisque, and also won his share of pure bunch sprints, but not in the same Tour. Laurent Jalabert won some sprints and some hilly stages, but not true mountain events.
  • As for sprints on the Champs, Hinault is the only winner of the final stage who also won mountain stages in the same race. Nobody else is remotely close. Only Greg LeMond won in Paris and in the mountains, but that was the famous 1989 ITT, not a sprint.

Wout Van Aert is just a one of one. Nobody else is quite like him. Not even Mathieu van der Poel, who is greater in some respects but clearly not in the climbs, nowhere close. Add in the significance to Belgians for saving Eddy’s record and I can’t see how you can argue that anyone else won this Tour.

CYCLING TOUR DE FRANCE 2021 LAST STAGE 21
He-Ro
Photo by DAVID STOCKMAN/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images