Wout van Aert took back the race leader’s yellow jersey after stage 3 of the Critérium du Dauphiné but struggled to raise a smile on the podium after seeing stage victory snatched from him on the line by David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ).
Van Aert was looking to finish off some superb team work by Jumbo-Visma on the climb up to Chastreix-Sancy and take his second stage win in three days. He made sure he was well-placed for the reduced sprint and took a line down the centre of the road and seemed set to win. But he then sat up and began to celebrate as the finish line approached, only for Gaudu to come from his slipstream and surge past him to snatch victory with a perfectly-timed bike throw.
Van Aert’s celebrations turned to disappointment in a split second as he realised his mistake, while Gaudu celebrated his heist and well-deserved victory.
Van Aert sat on the ground beyond the finish line, trying to overcome the pain of his defeat and slightly embarrassment of celebrating before the finish line.
“It was a rookie mistake, a rookie mistake," Van Aert admitted, according to Sporza.
“On such a rising finish you lose a lot of speed when you celebrate. It happened in a split second and David Gaudu came from the other side... It's just painful."
"It’s a big disappointment to not finish off our work today. I had it in my own hands. If I’d thrown the wheel instead of celebrating, I think I had it," he told Cycling Pro Net and other broadcasters after the podium ceremony.
"I've seen it before with other riders. You sometimes laugh about it, but now I'm the loser. I think this is the first time it has happened to me. Or at least in such a big race. When you see it with someone else you always question how it’s possible. Now I understand how they feel. Hopefully it won't happen a second time.”
Van Aert found little to celebrate in taking back the race leader’s yellow jersey.
“I would have had that jersey too if I had won,” he said, hoping to recover quickly and perhaps make amends for his mistake in Wednesday’s 31.9km flat time trial.
“I hope to recover well after a demanding day, because we had to fight hard for the run. I’ve worked a lot on my time trial and it will be interesting to see where we are.”
"The legs are still in a lot of pain because it was a super hard final and in the second half of the stage we had to chase really hard in the bunch because the breakaway was really strong today.
"For sure I’ll try to make up for it in the next couple of days."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.