Pogacar is in pole position
No doubt now: the defending champion Tadej Pogacar is the favorite to win two victories in as many editions of the Tour de France.
The 22-year-old was in sensational form in the time trial, 11 seconds ahead of leading man Stefan Küng at the first checkpoint. In the end, he had beaten the Swiss by 19 seconds to claim his fourth stage victory on the Tour.Of all the compliments one can give at the Pogacar gate, one is how it makes every ride so easy. He never looked confused or stressed, and he raced the time trial with the certainty that he would win. There was no stomping on the pedals, no obvious gurns screaming he was in pain, just full cruise control.
What does this mean in terms of numbers? He is eight seconds from the lead, Mathieu van der Poel valiantly clinging to yellow, but the most important is the time gap with his rivals.
He boasts of 40 seconds to Julian Alaphilippe; 1:21 to Rigoberto Urán; 1:36 to Richard Carapaz; 1h40 to Primoż Roglič; 1:46 to Geraint Thomas; and 1:48 to Wilco Kelderman.
The race is only five days old but he is already in a position of absolute strength. Interestingly, however, the UAE-Team Emirates man has never had to defend a favorable position in a Grand Tour. It’s new territory for him. How will he react to the challenge?
As Geraint Thomas retreats further
Poor Geraint Thomas. A time trial just two days after his dislocated shoulder would have been the last thing he wanted to do, the demands of the effort forcing him into an uncomfortable and undoubtedly painful position.
From the moment he left, he was behind on the required pace, and he made it his mission not to send much time to his fellow riders in the general classification.
Unfortunately for the Welshman, he conceded more than he would have liked, finishing 78 seconds behind Pogačar and 34 seconds behind Roglič.
It wasn’t as bad as it could have been and Thomas exceeded some expectations, but if he wants to win a second yellow jersey he will have to attack in the mountains like never before.
He will take comfort in knowing that a deficit of just under two minutes can be made up quickly, whether through his own performance or through falls, but he has to start now.
Mais Primož Roglič limits your pertes
Considering he’s been so hardened since his fall in Stage 3 that he looks like a mummy, Primoż Roglič’s effort on the 27.2km course was impressive.
The Slovenian finished in seventh position, 44 seconds behind his compatriot Pogacar.
It will hurt Roglič, but he can derive tremendous satisfaction from the way he has traveled the course, driving with attack intent, aggressive in the turns and fluid and consistent on the open roads.
Apart from Pogačar, no other rider in the general classification took time in Roglič, and he won a decent amount over a privileged few, especially Richard Carapaz, who is only four seconds ahead of Roglič, one minute less than before the stage.
Perhaps the most important thing about his time is that his injuries don’t seem to have affected him too much physically.
This weekend’s mountain tour could be explosive.
Ups and downs for other runners with an eye on the yellow
Richard Carapaz certainly doesn’t count on his time trial to win stage races and Grand Tours, but even by his standards he will be disappointed with his performance on stage five.
The Ecuadorian was third overall before the stage and seemed to be Ineos Grenadiers’ best option to win the race, but he is now ninth and 1:36 behind Pogacar.
It is in the high mountains that Carapaz will aim to show his worth, but he is now more set back than he would have imagined.
Elsewhere, Wout van Aert did not have the time trial he hoped to lead him in yellow, with the Dutchman finishing 30 seconds off the pace, just a second better than Mathieu van der Poel who maintained his grip on the head.
Other performances to note include Rigobero Urán’s constant efforts which bring him closer to Pogacar than any other overall contender except Julian Alaphilippe.
Küng fell in love with it, but is it a platform?
Stefan Küng’s time trial talents have always been known, the Swiss possessing the raw talent needed to produce quick time trial times.
After all, you don’t become the individual pursuit world champion like he did in 2015 without being able to set a high pace and maintain it for a long time.
But the Groupama-FDJ rider only really enjoyed great success last year when he became European champion in the discipline. Since then he has evolved his form and his second place in the fifth stage time trial was the confirmation that he is indeed one of the current stars of the sport in the discipline.
He longed for the victory and looked in total control the entire way, a man operating in the area where he feels most comfortable.
He didn’t quite take the win despite being in the hot seat for a good period, but this performance and second place could be the platform he was looking for to establish himself as the main rival. by Filippo Ganna.