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Stage 11 of the Tour de France was a big day for Jumbo-Visma, who claimed the race lead with Jonas Vingegaard, but the day was even bigger for one lucky spectator on the roadside of the Col du Granon.
Wout van Aert was coming back down the Col du Granon from the finish of stage 11 of the Tour de France after the podium ceremony for the points classification – which he leads by a huge margin – and realized he had a slow leak in his tyre and no Jumbo-Visma mechanic in sight.
The Belgian stopped during the descent to his team bus and some cyclists quickly offered up a frame pump so Van Aert could add some air to his tubeless tyre.
In thanks, Van Aert gave one cyclist the green jersey off his back – literally telling him to un-zip the back of the podium version of the green jersey and have it as a souvenir.
The moment was captured by Italian journalist and cyclist Michele Pelacci who is riding in the Alps with his brother and watching the Tour from the roadside. He works for a number of Italian media including the Alvento magazine and the official Giro d’Italia podcast called GIROglifici.
He admitted he wasn’t quick enough to get van Aert’s green jersey but captured the moment and shared photographs on Twitter.
“My brother punctured and we stopped at the side of the road to change the inner tube. Guess who stopped after five minutes? Wout van Aert,” Pelacci wrote on Twitter.
“I said: Hey Wout, there’s liquid coming out of your wheel. He looked at me stupidly and explaibed it was tubeless. He asked for a pump and an English guy offered him one. Wout told him: ‘You’re a hero’ and said: ‘I’ve got something for you, take the green jersey off my back, it’s yours’
“What did I learn from it all? Be the first to pass a pump to Wout van Aert because in exchange he could give you a special souvenir in exchange.”
Pro cycling is unique in how close fans can get to the riders and spectators clamour for discarded bidons. But to receive such a valuable keepsake is hors-categorie.
Van Aert was likely in a generous mood because of his team’s success on the day.
He attacked from kilometre zero, drawing out a breakaway and, after snatching some more points in the intermediate sprint, came back to help the team in its assault on race leader Tadej Pogačar.
Van Aert pulled Primož Roglič back to the yellow jersey group after the Slovenian had put in several stinging attacks, coming up and past the group like a high-speed train.
On the final climb, Vingegaard hardly needed his teammates as he leapt away with 4.5km to go to win the stage and snatch the race lead.
“It was a really big day, we prepared for this day – you could see we were all ready to give it a go and attack the yellow jersey,” Van Aert said after the podium ceremony.
“It was not easy, I was in front ready to help Jonas and Primož toward the Granon, but apparently Tadej Pogačar could chase down the guys all the time. So at that moment, I thought it was going to be hard to do something. But I think because Laporte and I at the beginning of the stage we made him suffer already early on. That’s why Jonas could break away on the final climb.”
Van Aert’s breakaway started with a familiar friend – fellow cyclocross racer Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) set aside their rivalry to help pull the breakaway clear only to be dropped on the first climb, the Lacets de Montvernier.
“The plan was to be in the breakaway and be the rider out front. That Mathieu was on my wheel was a nice surprise, it will be really cool pictures. We did a really fast first 30k, I really enjoyed it.
“Again I could take the points in the intermediate sprint, so a perfect day but especially for GC this was a brilliant day.”
For the fan who received his green jersey, it was undoubtedly an even more brilliant day.