Stage 5 – the First Time Trial – Report and Photo Gallery
Defending champion Tadej Pogačar put on a time trial masterclass, but the Yellow Jersey remains on the shoulders of Mathieu van der Poel.
By Joe Lindsey and Whit Yost |
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30/06/2021 – Tour de France 2021 – Etape 5 – Change / Laval (CLM - 27,2 km) - Nicholas Dlamini (TEAM QHUBEKA NEXTHASH)
Defending Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Emirates) showed he’s still the rider to beat at the race with a commanding win in the Stage 5 time trial. The slightly-built Pogačar dispatched even specialists of the discipline, and put solid time into all of his rivals for the overall classification with a superb ride averaging a whopping 51kph over the 27.2km course. Yellow jersey Mathieu van der Poel of Alpecin-Fenix also had a strong ride to finish fifth and preserve his race lead for another day. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) is in third overall.
Van der Poel doesn’t have a strong time trial resume, and today’s stage was both the longest TT he’s ever done and under the biggest spotlight. But he rose to the occasion with solid pacing throughout, hovering between 2nd and 5th at every time check. While his overall lead over Pogačar dwindled to just eight seconds, simply staying in yellow another day is a massive accomplishment for a rider whose main objective this year is actually in a few weeks at the Tokyo Olympics, where he’ll race the mountain bike event.
Who’s Really Winning the Tour?
No one had a better day than Pogačar, who was fastest at every intermediate time check and gained time—often a lot—on all his challengers. The soonest Pogačar is likely to take yellow is Friday’s unusually long stage, but barring a crash or some major mishap, it’s almost a sure thing he’ll be in the race lead this weekend when the race goes into the Alps.
Elsewhere, contenders have to be asking themselves where are the cracks in Pogačar’s armor. His closest real rival on time is EF Education-Nippo’s Rigoberto Uran, who is almost a minute and a half behind before the mountains even start, and Pogačar is one of the best climbers in the world. INEOS’s Richard Carapaz and last year’s runner-up, Primož Roglič of Jumbo-Visma, are around 1:40 back, and things get more grim from there; there are only five more GC hopefuls within three minutes of Pog on the overall classification. Some of them, like Roglic and INEOS’s Geraint Thomas, are dealing with injuries from crashes in the opening stages. There are two possibilities for the coming weeks: Pogačar didn’t lead last year’s Tour until the final day, so he never had to defend yellow, and his team is a question mark in terms of strength. And, Pog is clearly flying right now, but there are more than two weeks left to race. If his form peaked too early, rivals may be able to gain back time late in the race as he fades.