Wout van Aert had to accept a second consecutive second place at the Tour de France but his defeat in Nyborg had a silver lining: the Belgian pulled on the race leader's yellow jersey for the first time in his career.
Van Aert thought he was about to win when he passed Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) in sight of the finish line, only for Fabio Jakobsen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) to flash past him and snatch the victory.
"Immediately after the finish I was disappointed because I thought I'd won but Fabio passed us, he must have done a fast sprint," Van Aert explained.
"You always go for victory but I quickly realised I was second and got the yellow jersey. It was another second place but there's definitely no reason to complain."
Van Aert has won some of the sport's biggest races including three stages in last year's Tour de France and is a multi-time cyclo-cross world champion. Yet he is also tagged as an eternal or at least a frequent runner-up, after some big defeats in major races like the Tour of Flanders.
He shrugged off the labels, criticism and cliches, preferring to savour his wins and learn from his defeats.
"What doesn't kill, you makes you stronger," he responded with a cliche.
"Lots of big champions have lots of second places, too. I'd rather be second than nowhere. I've been second twice in this Tour but I got the yellow jersey, so if you race hard every day, you get the rewards sooner or later.
"My experience in the last couple of years is that there's always another day. Last year in the Tour I came up short in the early stages but kept believing I could do it. I was second the day before the stage over the Ventoux and then the day after I took maybe the most beautiful victory of my career. You always have to keep going."
Van Aert has worn the leader's yellow jersey at Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné but, despite coming close in 2019 and 2021, this is his first time taking the Tour de France maillot jaune.
"It's the same jersey as the other races but this one means so much more. I'm really happy and proud to wear it. I've had some nice victories in my career but never before worn this beautiful jersey. I think every cyclist dreams of wearing it," Van Aert said.
Now Van Aert and Jumbo-Visma will have to defend his one-second lead over Yves Lampaert during stage 3 to Sønderborg on Sunday and then in northern France and onto the Paris-Roubaix cobbles next week. Tadej Pogačar is at eight seconds, with Filippo Ganna fourth at 11 seconds and sprint rival Pedersen at 12 seconds.
Jumbo-Visma are also chasing the overall victory with Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard and the green jersey with Van Aert. Defending the yellow jersey is an extra burden but an extra objective that Van Aert believes the team can shoulder.
"It'll be a team effort and this Tour and especially the first week are really demanding. With or without and the jersey, there's a lot of work to do," he argued.
"I saw how strong the guys were today, that was crazy to see. A lot were wroth two riders and the team was impressive all day. I'm looking forward with confidence to what's coming."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.