MOUTIERS, France (AP) — Belgian allrounder Wout van Aert, a key teammate of Tour de France leader Jonas Vingegaard, has left the race to be with his wife Sarah ahead of the birth of their second child.
Van Aert, a versatile rider capable of winning on all grounds, has provided crucial support to Vingegaard since the start of the Tour. But because Vingegaard has opened a huge gap in the general classification with one tough mountain stage left, Van Aert's presence was not deemed as essential.
“As everyone knows, Sarah is pregnant, things are starting to get a bit tight at home,” Van Aert said in a video published by his Jumbo-Visma team ahead of Thursday's Stage 18. “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.”
Vingegaard, the defending champion, dropped Tadej Pogacar in the last big stage in the French Alps on Wednesday to increase his overall lead to 7 minutes, 35 seconds. Barring any big crash, he looks set to win his second Tour title on Sunday.
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 did not happen,” he said. “But I will always remember this Tour as the one where I called home every day.”