Last Wednesday evening, Wout van Aert was on stage in Copenhagen and took a short artistic break before answering.

How many stages could he win in the Tour de France guest appearance in Denmark?

"There are only three, right?" he replied with a grin - the audience cheered.

On Sunday night in Sonderborg, van Aert sat on a podium, wearing the yellow jersey.

If you like, he wore the green jersey of the best sprinter underneath, at least he leads this ranking.

So the Belgian puts the two most coveted bibs in cycling on his shoulders and said: "I have to force myself to be happy." Excuse me?

Third place three times

"Well," said Wout van Aert only a little, "there are mixed feelings.

Of course I've been dreaming of yellow for a long time, but I just like winning races.” Now he hasn't won any of the three stages of the Tour in Denmark.

Once, in the time trial at the start in Copenhagen, he was a few seconds short, twice, in the following sprint finishes, he was a few centimeters short.

Second place three times.

In his world and perception, these are defeats.

None like one

In the past eleven months alone, the 27-year-old has finished second at Paris-Roubaix, the Olympic road race and the World Championship.

Results that most others in the peloton classify as a career highlight in the “unforgettable” category.

But Wout van Aert is one like no other in the scene.

Nobody embodies world class on as many terrains as he does.

The best example is the 2021 Tour, when the multiple all-round talent won a time trial, the difficult mountain stage on Mount Ventoux and the sprint on the Champs-Elysées.

As if his legs were a never-ending treasure chest from which he simply needs to pull out the right bling.

In any case, the specialists in the driver field can never be sure whether he is serious.

The question remains whether Wout van Aert, who has set his sights on winning the green jersey, and his team Jumbo-Visma, who are aiming for a yellow card for either captain Roglic or Vingegaard, will want to defend their lead with all their might.

After the transfer day, the tour will continue this Tuesday (1.30 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the Tour de France, on Eurosport and on ARD) on French soil with a 172-kilometer hilly stage from Calais to Dunkirk.

If van Aert should parry all the expected attacks of the classic experts in the peloton himself and defend yellow - nobody would be surprised.