Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) takes over the yellow jersey of race leader on stage 2 of the 2022 Tour de France.

Van Aert has ‘no reason to complain’ as he takes yellow on stage 2 of the Tour

After coming second again, van Aert is happy to move into the yellow jersey at the Tour de France: “it’s something every cyclist dreams of”.

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Following a surprise runner-up result on Friday, the chaotic finale of stage 2 resulted in a consecutive second-place finish for Wout van Aert. He was pipped to the post by Fabio Jakobsen, but the Belgian came away with the best possible consolation prize in the yellow jersey of Tour de France leader. 

“Of course it feels nice,” Van Aert said in the post-stage press conference, “it’s the same jersey in the other races [he’s worn yellow at the Dauphiné and Paris-Nice] but of course this one means so much more and it’s definitely something I’ve been hunting for quite some time and really worked hard for. So I’m really happy and proud to wear it.”

After a big crash whittled the bunch down to its bare bones, the favourites had freedom of the road in the frantic, curving and slightly undulating run-in on stage 2. While Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven guided local man Mads Pedersen on the front, Van Aert had Christophe Laporte’s help to come up the left side of the road.

With Pedersen to his right, he could feel himself pulling clear, but Jakobsen had more speed on the Dane’s other side.

“Immediately after the finish I was disappointed because after I passed Pedersen, I thought I would win, but in the final metres Fabio passed me,” Van Aert said. “He must have done a really fast sprint. I tried to go for victory but I realised I was second. But I got the jersey, there’s no reason to complain.”

So close, but second again for Van Aert.

Talk naturally turned to the significance of the yellow jersey, one of, if not the most iconic symbols of professional cycling.

“It’s definitely high on the list, it’s a nice victory already, it’s a nice achievement in cycling,” he said. “Never before I’ve worn this yellow jersey and I think it’s something every cyclist dreams of. It’s hard to say exactly where, but definitely high on the list.”

Rather like Peter Sagan before him, whose green jersey campaigns were littered with second places, Van Aert has become familiar with the silver-hued runner-up spot. And yes, he has thought about it, but he says it’s not too much of a sticking point.

“Always for some reason you get second, sometimes it’s in your own head and you try to learn from it to get better,” Van Aert said, philosophically. “Sometimes you get beaten by stronger guys, today was a good example of this.

“In cycling there’s been a lot of big champions with second places. Better being second than nowhere. I start the tour with two second places but I have the jersey so it shows you get the jersey sooner or later.”

Yellow jersey, tick. And if history has anything to say, we’re sure to see Van Aert turn second into first in a matter of days.

“Maybe it’s also something you get more used to if it happens more,” he said. “My experience in the past couple of years is that another day is always coming. For example, last year in the Tour I always came up short for a lot of stages in the beginning, but I kept believing I could do it. Even the day before the Ventoux I came second in the bunch sprint, beaten by a few lengths, but then you take the most beautiful victory of your career. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

In his own words, “the most beautiful victory” of Van Aert’s career – stage 11 of the 2021 Tour de France.

Van Aert now leads the race by one second over Lampaert. The next dangerous rider as far as an imminent yellow jersey challenge is concerned is Pedersen 12 seconds in arrears, Mathieu van der Poel a further two seconds down in 6th overall.

With stage 3 also likely to end in a sprint and its parcours rather simpler than today’s, Van Aert is in with a good chance of carrying the race lead into France. If things go his way, he could keep hold of it until the end of the week’s visit to the Super Blanche des Belles Filles.

“Of course, it will be a big team effort anyways this Tour, especially the first week will be really demanding,” Van Aert said when asked about keeping the yellow jersey, which he hopes one of his teammates will wear in Paris. “With or without the jersey there will always be a lot of work for us to do. But if I look at the stage today and see how hard the guys work, that’s really crazy to see. A lot of the guys count for two and they did really impressive work the whole day. I’m looking forward with a lot of confidence to what’s coming.”

Van Aert’s last words were for Jakobsen, the second Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider to beat him so far this race, but for whom he feels “only respect”.

“I can remember the first moments after his bad crash in Poland,” Van Aert explained. “I think everyone in the cycling family was touched and there was a scary couple of days, week, to find out if he could recover and have a normal life afterwards. Once he managed to do that it was just an incredible comeback and the last two years he’s been there always. He’s a friendly competitor and I have a lot of respect for him.”

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