Wout van Aert leaves Tour de France early to welcome second child

Belgian’s wife due to give birth ‘imminently’

Clock09:00, Thursday 20th July 2023
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) headed home from the Tour de France on Thursday morning

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) headed home from the Tour de France on Thursday morning

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has confirmed that he will leave the Tour de France ahead of stage 18 with the birth of his family’s second child expected in the coming days.

The Belgian rider has been instrumental in the team’s overall challenge, and now leaves the race with Jonas Vingegaard comfortably on course for a second straight win, 7:35 ahead of his closest competitor on GC. Van Aert’s wife, Sarah De Bie, is close to giving birth to the couple’s second child and while rumours of Van Aert’s early departure from the race have been swirling for several days, the Belgian confirmed that he would now be going home on Thursday morning.

“I keep in mind that I can go home at any time during the Tour. I absolutely do not want to miss the birth of our child. As everyone knows, Sarah is pregnant," Van Aert said in a video message released by his team on Thursday morning. “In consultation with the team, we have decided that my place is now home. Sarah has of course been examined by the doctor several times in recent weeks and it turned out that the birth is coming. That is why we made the decision. It is a strange feeling, but not a dilemma,” he added.

Van Aert leaves this edition of the race without a stage win - he has won nine in the last four Tours - but he has helped Jonas Vingegaard to a commanding lead with only four stages remaining, with the Dane set to win his second Tour de France for Jumbo-Visma.

Stages 18 and 19 may have suited Van Aert, as well as the Champs-Élysées where has won before, but the Belgian made it clear that his plan was always to leave the race to be with his family.“It was an easy decision because I always envisioned myself going home when my wife indicated she needed me. That time has now come. I was able to tell the team on Wednesday evening and it was good that everyone understood my decision.”

Male riders have not always been afforded the opportunity to leave races for the birth of their children, especially when playing a key role or fighting for a win, and there is no UCI paternity policy as has been brought in for female cyclists. The decisions are made by the teams, and Jumbo-Visma boss Richard Plugge said it wasn’t a question for the Dutch team.

“For us it’s normal,” Plugge told GCN before stage 18. “It’s really important to be with your family, with your wife and your kid. Hopefully it all goes well [for Van Aert and family] in the coming days somewhere. He is family and we are a family. I have kids myself, and you want to be there at the most important moment in life with your family.

“That’s why we agreed, without any discussion, [for Van Aert] to just go home.”

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