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Men's Cycling Van Aert solos to sensational victory in Calais

WOUT VAN AERT, who humorously said he was tired of coming second, having secured that spot in each of the tour’s opening three stages in Denmark, went one better as the Tour de France returned to French soil today.

The Belgian won today’s stage four in Calais with panache, putting in a massive effort on the final hill, the cote de Cap Gris-Nez, to ride clear of the field with 10km to go and then maintain his clear lead to the line.

Indeed so clear was Van Aert’s lead that Jasper Philipsen, who won the sprint for second place, appeared to celebrate on the line in the belief that he had won the stage, unaware that his fellow countryman had already crossed a few seconds earlier. He did, however, pip Christophe Laporte, Alexander Kristoff and Peter Sagan.

Van Aert extended his overall race lead to 25 seconds from fellow Belgian Yves Lampaert. Tour favourite Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia stands in third at 32 seconds down, but it’s early days in this marathon 21-stage race, and a long way to Paris.

Wednesday’s stage, departing from Lille, heads through several cobblestone sections that should test riders’ bike-handling mettle on their way to a finish in Arenberg. The riders will be praying for good weather, the crowds hoping for a bit of rain to make the going greasy — and spectacular.

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