On Friday July 1st, stage 1 of the 2022 Tour de France, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel participate in the same (road) race for the 49th time in their career. It will be their 4th clash in an Individual Time Trial. Who has a better ITT-record? And what about an ITT of this specific distance? Will one of them take the yellow jersey next week in Copenhagen?
Stats are covered as well in the WielerOrakel podcast (Dutch).
ITT performances on the road
The first time Wout van Aert was at the start of an Individual TIme Trial was in the Baloise Belgium Tour of 2013 (stage 3). At an age of 18 years, van Aert finished 83rd in the ITT won by Tony Martin (before Tom Dumoulin). Exactly one year later, van der Poel made his ITT-debute in the same race (stage 3 Belgium Tour’14). MVDP finished 54th, while, again, Tony Martin and Tom Dumoulin finished on the top steps of the podium. Van Aert rode his 2nd ITT a year later in the Prologue of Ster ZLM Toer ’14 while van der Poel participated in 6 prologues (Boucles de Mayenne 2014-2018), but waited 5 more years before taking part in a longer ITT again in the 2019 Tour of Britain.
In total, van der Poel participated in 17 ITT’s and Prologues and finished all of them while van Aert took part in 22 ITT’s, finishing all but the one with his horrific crash in the 2019 Tour de France. Van Aert’s track record in Time Trials is truly impressive. The Belgian all-rounder finished top-6 in all ITT’s he participated in the past 5 seasons (2018-2022). His most impressive performances were probably his victory in stage 7 of the 2021-Tirreno-Adriatico and stage 20 of past Tour de France, in which he won against the biggest specialists. The only ITT’s in which van Aert did not finish top-10 (excl the 2019-Tour) were his first 3 ITT’s in 2013-2016 and the time tiral in the BinckBank Tour of 2017 (14th). Despite the fact that MVDP has not been outstanding in ITT’s, his last 3 appearances were of a high level. Van der Poel finished top-5 in stage 5 of last year’s Tour de France, holding on to the maillot jaune and finished top-3 in both ITT’s of this year’s Giro (also defending the leader jersey in stage 2).
While van der Poel did not win an ITT at pro-level yet, Wout van Aert was already fastest in 7 ITT’s. Van Aert’s first victory was in his 4th ITT: the prologue of the Baloise Belgium Tour 2016. In that prologue he defeated ITT-king Tony Martin, The year before his first ITT-win, van Aert raced against van der Poel in a Time Trial for the first time.
Direct clashes in ITT’s
Looking in more detail at clashes between MVDP and WVA in ITT”s, the one in last year’s Tour de France is probably most memorable. So often have MVDP and WVA raced each other (mainly in cyclocross) and so often they have shown to be at their best in those clashes. In the ITT of the 2021 Tour de France they were like twins, finishing within 1 second from eachother just outside the podium at a 4th (WVA) and 5th (MVDP) place.
Before the ITT in stage 5 of the 2021 Tour de France, van der Poel and van Aert both competed in 2 ITT’s. Mathieu finished 11th in their first clash in the Prologue of the Belgium Tour of 2015, while van Aert became 16th. The only remaining ITT-clash was the aforementioned victory of van Aert in stage 7 of the Tirreno Adriatico in 2021. In that race against the clock, MVDP was most likely not giving everything and finished 67th. Van der Poel and van Aert digged deep in that specific Tirreno (giant solo-victory in the rain by MVDP and van Aert finished 2nd in GC behind Pogacar).
Results in types of ITT’s
In all types of TIme Trials (shorter and longer), Wout van Aert has been more succesful than van der Poel, WVA has 7 ITT-wins in total, almost 33% of all time-trials he started. Especially in long time-trials Wout van Aert is extremely succesful with 11 top-10’s and 7 podium-results in 12 starts. The only long ITT he finished outside top-10 was because of his crash (Tour de France’19). Only in shorter ITT’s van der Poel is performing at a comparable level .MVDP finished on the podium in 4 of the 9 short ITT’s (and prologues) he participated in.
Rivalry coming up?
The careers of MVDP and WVA are focused around the classics, but in recent years they have been participating in several stage-races and time trials. Wout van Aert has become a true specialist and despite the lack of focus by MVDP, he is showing impressive ITT-skills as well.
Wout van Aert is clearly a better allround time-trialist, but van der Poel seems to be able to compete for the win in shorter ones. It will be exciting to see both stars competing against the clock in the near future.
We’re preparing for and looking forward to an amazing Tour de France, with clashes between the best riders of the 2022 peloton. Will two of them, van Aert and van der Poel, both be at their best? We’ll see next Friday in their 4th direct confrontation in an Individual Time-Trial.
* The ITT in BinckBank Tour 2017 was the first ITT in which van Aert faced Filippo Ganna (Ganna was 13th in that ITT). Since then Ganna and van Aert have raced together in an ITT for 6 times and van Aert finished better than Ganna only once in a direct clash (Tirreno’21-stage 7).
Note: Cycling Statistics (@statsoncycling) is a regular guest in the ‘WielerOrakel podcast (WielerOrakel podcast on Spotify)’, a Dutch podcast in which cycling-fans Tom and Thomas will rejoice in the next big races on the cycling calendar. The podcast will feature guest-appearances of Arjan Zoer (ZoerCyclingStat) and us (StatsOnCycling).
Sources used: ProCyclingStats and FirstCycling for results and comparisons.