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Wout van Aert leaves Tour de France to be with pregnant wife: 'It's an easy decision'

Wout van Aert is abandoning the Tour de France after learning that his pregnant wife's labor is "imminent." He's seen here earlier this week, ascending Saint-Gervais-les-Bains in the French Alps.
Marco Bertorello
/
AFP via Getty Images
Wout van Aert is abandoning the Tour de France after learning that his pregnant wife's labor is "imminent." He's seen here earlier this week, ascending Saint-Gervais-les-Bains in the French Alps.

The Tour de France will end in Paris in just a few days — but it will do so without one of its most exciting riders, as Wout van Aert quits cycling's biggest race to be with his wife, Sarah, who is expecting their second child.

"On the one hand it's a strange feeling but it's not a dilemma," Van Aert said in a video announcing his withdrawal. "It's an easy decision. I always thought that I would go home when my wife indicated that she needed me."

In this year's Tour, Van Aert has been a crucial ally of defending champion Jonas Vingegaard on Jumbo-Visma's eight-man team, using his unique strength and versatility to put pressure on Vingegaard's top rival, two-time winner Tadej Pogacar.

But Thursday's stage 18 began without Van Aert. He leaves this year's edition of cycling's landmark event without adding to his career nine stage wins. Van Aert said that while he had hoped to make it to Paris, he's been discussing a potential early exit with his team.

"I always thought that I would go home when my wife indicated that she needed me," the Belgian said. With the family's doctor assessing that labor is imminent, he said, "My place is now at home."

Van Aert, 28, said his teammates "are 100% behind me," and he's confident that they'll shepherd Vingegaard, who now has a comfortable lead of more than 7 minutes over Pogacar, to the podium in Paris.

This year's Tour de France brought a thrilling duel between Vingegaard and Pogacar, with the two most recent champions fighting for every second as the road race headed into its final week. But Vingegaard finally cemented his advantage in the Alps, in Tuesday's time trial and Wednesday's epic mountain stage.

For his part, Van Aert said, "I look back on this Tour in a positive way, but I will always remember this Tour as the one where I called home every day."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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