It is Mathieu van der Poel's grandfather, Raymond Poulidor, who was known as the "eternal second", not Wout van Aert's. And yet the Belgian feels like the true inheritor of the nickname, as for a second consecutive day at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and the fifth time this season, he was a runner-up.
Van der Poel has finished second 11 times in his road racing career, while Van Aert has finished second a massive 23 times. It is getting to Peter Sagan levels.
In fact, the Jumbo-Visma rider is incredibly used to finishing behind Filippo Ganna (Jumbo-Visma), who won on Wednesday, as has happened in the time trial at the last two World Championships.
Despite the second consecutive podium place, Van Aert was phlegmatic after his defeat in La Bâtie d’Urfé.
However, the Belgian came up against the best time trialist in the world in Ganna. The Italian had not been throwing everything at the opening stages of the race, unlike his rival, and therefore could concentrate on the effort against the clock.
"It's a time trial and it's always honest," Van Aert said. "Only two seconds, it's not a lot but still it's a difference. I got beat by the world champion - I like to win but I have to accept it and I'm happy with my performance.
"I think I did a really good start, [I was] really on the limit in the corners in the start - maybe that's why I had an advantage on Filippo in the first split. Then in the second part I thought I did a good pace but apparently he was a lot faster. Eventually I could find my rhythm again and had a nice spot in front of me with two guys I was catching, [David] Gaudu and [Victor] Lafay, that was a little advantage to try and get them."
It was interesting to see Van Aert catch Lafay, who started four minutes ahead of him, and Gaudu only just beat him on the line for the second day in a row. This time, however, he was not the winner.
The Belgian does have the consolation of the yellow jersey, which he has worn for two days out of the three possible occasions so far.
It will be interesting to see how he can go in this race; he has 53 seconds on Mattia Cattaneo in second place, and there are two punchy stages to come, during which he could add to his podium placings. The final two Alpine stages might prove too hard for him, but one simply just does not know how good Van Aert's form is. If this race isn't for him, the Dauphiné looks set-up well for his teammate Primož Roglič.
"In the end I just came up short," Van Aert said. "It was quite an honest TT and I lost it. He's the best time triallist in the world if he's only two seconds ahead of you on quite a long TT it says something about your shape. I'm really pleased with how it's going, it's been a really good Dauphine for me - I have this nice jersey and will try to enjoy it the next couple of days."
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