It's as if he can't help but win. For the second time in three days, Belgium's Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) claimed a spectacular second bunch sprint victory in the Tour de France, but on this occasion, it was entirely unplanned.
At Privas, 48 hours before, on a technical, undulating finale, the Milano-Sanremo winner was in his element, and, despite having no team support, he dominated in the sprint.
And then on a far more fraught stage to Lavaur on Friday, after working and protecting Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) as the peloton split into echelon after echelon, Van Aert was still able to turn on the power in the closing metres.
Jumbo-Visma have now racked up a total of three stage wins out of a possible seven in this year's Tour, making for a near-perfect start, but Van Aert turned down any chance of his adding to the Dutch team's goal of winning the yellow jersey by trying for the green jersey himself, even though he now sits third in the points classification behind Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep).
The Belgian sagely pointed out that the team's overriding aim was the overall victory in Paris, and that his contribution to that meant that he could not afford to waste energy on going for every single bunch sprint. That said, if more opportunities come up like at Lavaur, he was not going to turn up his nose at them.
"I was focussed on Primoz for the whole stage," Van Aert said afterwards, "but then I thought 'why not have a good try for the sprint?'"
"I could find a gap, get on somebody's slipstream, and I timed the sprint perfectly. But I didn't expect to do that today, it was a big surprise. I didn't expect it to be a small group sprint today, but then things blew apart right from the first climb."
Van Aert singled out Tom Dumoulin for helping him stay well placed in the closing kilometres - "that shows how special our team is " -, but said he had not been aware of Julian Alaphilippe's mechanical incident, which saw the Frenchman abruptly sit up in the closing metres. "I didn't see anything, I just saw the line," he argued.
As for keeping his eye on the ball in another sense, Van Aert does not envisage a crack at the green jersey, which was the first question he was asked by a Belgian journalist in the post-stage press conference.
"Like I said in the past, [when going for green] it's important to take all the points from the start onwards, and you use up a lot of energy. So it would not be possible for me to do all my work for the team and then also do every bunch sprint," Van Aert argued. "That's not my goal."
He also brushed aside a suggestion from another journalist that he might consider himself to be the best rider in the world, given his exceptional versatility in all kinds of terrain.
"That's not a question for me, it's one for the fans," he argued. "Everybody has their own favourites, so for me, it's not about that label. It's about winning races. I've won a lot, but I'm not thinking about that."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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