The Jumbo-Visma star was frustrated after a breakaway barely fended off the hard-chasing pack in Monday’s second stage, leaving Van Aert sprinting for leftovers.
“Right now I’m disappointed. My sprint was really good, so it’s a shame it was for sixth place instead of a victory,” Van Aert said. “As a team, we tried everything but the breakaway was smarter.”
The day’s main break, which featured American rider Kevin Vermaerke, held a slender lead coming into the final 10km.
The leaders were committed to the line, and the chase wasn’t organized soon enough from behind. Jumbo-Visma put numbers on the front but the leaders fended off the bunch by just a fistful of seconds.
Van Aert — a winner Sunday to take the yellow jersey — roared across the line to take sixth, but when the seconds and time bonuses adding up, Van Aert not only missed the stage win, but also lost the leader’s jersey.
Van Aert swaps yellow for green
Van Aert dipped to fourth, now at five seconds behind stage-winner and new leader Alexis Vuillermoz.
“The pace was really high on the last long climb, and we took back a minute, maybe two I think, so I was quite confident we would catch the breakaway but I think everyone was surprised with how fast the last part of the stage was,” he said. “There were two little kickers in the last 15km but all the rest was a lot of downhill and you don’t make up time in parts like this. The breakaway played it smart, so hats off to them.”
Van Aert, who roared back into competition Sunday with a resounding win, will now refocus his efforts on Wednesday’s time trial and then helping his teammates in the looming GC battle.
“Green is a nice color, and hopefully I can wear it more in the next stages, but I am disappointed now,” he said.