Tour de France: Second place is good enough to put Wout van Aert into yellow

Belgian superstar never gives up and comes away with the maillot jaune: 'If you keep fighting, you get the rewards sooner or later.'

Photo: AFP via Getty Images

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NYBORG, Denmark (VN) — Whoever said second places don’t count in cycling didn’t see the smile crease across Wout van Aert‘s face as he donned the yellow at the Tour de France.

Back-to-back second places in the opening two stages of the 2022 Tour slotted the Belgian superstar into cycling’s most prized tunic. Though second doesn’t count among the top pros, Van Aert’s dogged determination delivered him at least one day in the peloton’s most famous jersey.

“This weekend I have two second places in the Tour, but now I have the yellow jersey,” Van Aert said. “If you keep fighting, you get the rewards sooner or later.”

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At first, Van Aert was frustrated that he was beaten at the line by Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) at the end of the crash-riddled second stage across the windy Great Belt bridge.

But when he learned time bonuses at the line nudged him into yellow at the expense of Friday’s time trial winner Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Van Aert was more than happy to take the honors.

“Immediately after the finish there was disappointment because I really thought I would win, but Fabio passed me in the final meters,” Van Aert said. “I realized I was second and it was enough to take the jersey. It’s another second place but there’s no reason at all to complain.”

Van Aert is known as much for his impressive palmarès just as much for his string of high-profile second places. Just last year, he was second in the Olympic road race and time trial as well as the world time trial championships.

On Saturday, second was just good enough to nudge him into yellow. He took six seconds at the line, enough to erase the five seconds he lost to Lampaert in Copenhagen.

“There is always some reason you get second,” he said “Sometimes it’s on your own fault and you try to learn from it and others you get beaten by a better rider, like today. Cycling is full of big champs. I’d rather be in second than nowhere.”

Van Aert said finishing second is simply more engine to keep pushing for more.

Rather than get frustrated by a second place, Van Aert pours that anger into his pedals to settle the score.

“From my experience in the last couple of years, there is always coming another day,” he said. “Last year in the Tour, I was always coming up short in a lot of stages but I never stopped believing I could do it.

“Even before the day before Mont Ventoux, I was second in a bunch sprint,” he said. “The next day after you try again, and then you sometimes get the most beautiful win of your career.

“If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.”

Van Aert promises to keep fighting all the way to Paris. Maybe he’ll pass the yellow jersey to a teammate and end up with the green jersey.

Van Aert knows that finishing second means the wins are not far away.

“It’s the same jersey in the other races, but this one means so much more,” he said of yellow. “It’s something I’ve been bunting for quite some time and I’ve worked hard for. I am really happy and proud to wear it.”

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