Bridesmaid Van Aert ‘must be getting angry’ after 2-2-2 start to Tour

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) may be in the yellow jersey after three stages at the Tour de France, but Adam Blythe reckons “he must be getting angry” after a hat-trick of runner-up finishes.

The Belgian was denied by the slimmest of margins on Stage 3 as Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange–Jayco) took a memorable victory on the final outing of Denmark’s Grand Depart.

At some point in each of the opening three stages of the 2022 Tour, Van Aert has looked the obvious winner. He soared to the top of the leaderboard in a rain-soaked time trial in Copenhagen in Stage 1, only to be knocked off by Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl).

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He led the sprint on Stage 2 after a nervy and blustery bridge crossing, but was pipped by Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl). And then on Sunday, as he focused his attention on staying clear of Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies), Groenewegen zipped up the other side and edged a photo finish by a hair’s breadth.

Van Aert can console himself with the yellow jersey, which he seized on Saturday. He actually increased his lead in the overall standings to seven seconds over Lampaert with bonuses, but Blythe believes that will be scant reward as the Belgian rider targets the sprinter’s green jersey.

“He must be getting angry,” said Blythe on The Breakaway.

“After his second second and being one of the top favourites for the time trial, he must be thinking, ‘come on!’.”

Van Aert admitted he was to blame for finishing second again on Sunday, calling it “the first big disappointment”.

“I have finished second now three times in a row, but this one was one I had in my own hands,” said Van Aert.

“It’s the first big disappointment. The past two days I got beaten by stronger riders. Dylan was strong today, but I think I pulled too soon off the wheel of [team-mate] Christophe Laporte. I went too early into the wind.

“If I’d just sat there and waited a little longer, I’d have won. This sprint was about centimetres and so this was just a big mistake on my part.”

‘It’s a four-up!’ – Groenewegen snatches Stage 3 victory in photo finish

Van Aert became the third rider in history to win a bunch sprint, mountain stage and individual time trial at the same Tour in 2021, joining greats Bernard Hinault (1979) and Eddy Merckx (1974) in the record books.

“To be that consistent… to be in that position at the right time on so many different occasions in a time trial and two sprint stages, it is unbelievable,” said Dan Lloyd.

“In terms of his own goal – which is the green jersey – that’s what it’s all about. He’s not picked up the big win on any of the stages so far.

“He’s been very consistent in the intermediate sprints, he’s been consistent at the finish. He must have a fairly substantial lead by now in the green jersey competition because Jacobsen didn’t get it right today, and he’s finished fifth.

“Things are looking very good for van Aert in terms of the green jersey. Of course, he would dearly love to take a stage win, that will be a bit frustrating for him.”

After Monday’s rest day, Stage 4 could offer Van Aert another chance to get amongst it as the race heads from Dunkirk to Calais, where he will likely have to go wheel-to-wheel with fellow multi-discipline star Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck).

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