GC contenders all looking up at Pogačar after TT

It was a day when defending Tour de France champion put the world on notice, winning the Stage 5 time trial at the Tour de France and putting himself into a commanding position against his main rivals on the general classification.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) picked up where he left off at the Tour de France, winning the time trial in a dominant fashion on a course that shouldn't have suited the Slovenian as much as the powerful specialists of the discipline. The only difference between this ride and the one in Stage 20 of the 2020 Tour, was that he didn't take the yellow jersey, but that seems just a matter of time as he put himself in a very strong position overall.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) held on in the race lead with his own stunning ride, and sits eight seconds ahead of Pogačar. Wout van Aert's (Jumbo-Visma) fourth place on the day means he's third overall, 30 seconds down, while Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) finished with a disappointing time to slip to fourth overall, 48 seconds back.


After that, the general classification riders start with Pierre Latour (Cofidis) in sixth, already a minute and 20 seconds behind Pogačar. In terms of riders nominated as pre-race favourites alongside the 22-year-old wunderkind, Richard Carapaz is a minute and 36 seconds behind with INEOS Grenadiers teammate Geraint Thomas a further ten seconds back.

2020 Tour de France runner-up Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) put in a sterling ride after a nasty Stage 3 crash, but couldn't match his younger countryman and now sits a minute and 40 seconds down. From an Australian perspective, Richie Porte (INEOS Grenadiers) and Lucas Hamilton (Team BikeExchange) are just a second apart on GC, 3'50 and 3'51 behind Pogačar, while Ben O'Connor (AG2R-Citroen) is hanging tough after some nasty crashes and is 4'48 down.

Being in such an obvious position of strength, with still a time trial to come on Stage 20 where current form would just suggest would increase his lead, has Pogačar certain that he'll face many challenges to his lead. 

"The attacks will come every day probably," Pogačar said. "It’s going to be hard but that’s how it is, you're attacking or you're defending. I'm pretty motivated to see how the race develops. I had good sensations in the way I could push it in this time trial and now I'm ready for what's next."

Despite a relatively low-key run of form of late in the race against the clock, Pogačar produced a scintillating ride against some of the best in the world to win.

"I started feeling good on the TT bike one week before the Tour because I changed the position," Pogačar explained. "I didn’t expect such a big [GC] gap, I knew I could have a good day, I had good legs and was motivated. In the end, I could push like how I should be able to and it was planned."

The racer in Pogačar was keen to take the yellow jersey, but the reality of the tactical situation probably means that its better for van der Poel to keep the lead, with Alpecin-Fenix forced to defend it until the big mountains. It's the one weakness for the seemingly unbeatable Pogačar, that his team don't have the firepower of other squads in the high mountains, with a time trial crash for top UAE Team Emirates climbing support Brandon McNulty further highlighting the weakness. 

"I came really close to yellow, it would be really nice to take it, it’s always a dream to be in yellow but I'm super happy with how it finished today," Pogačar said. "It couldn’t be much better.

"We haven't had any big mountains yet so it’s hard to tell (climbing form), but for short intervals and today in the time trial I can tell you that the condition is super good, the legs are good and it’s more or less the same as last year."

The 22-year-old will be placed in a position that he hasn't experienced before at a Grand Tour, as a frontrunner with every other rider hunting him. It will be a new type of challenge, time will tell how he'll deal with it.

The Tour de France continues with Stage 6, a flat 160-kilometre stage from Tours to Châteauroux, a stage expected to finish with a bunch sprint. Watch the action on SBS, the SKODA Tour Tracker and SBS OnDemand from 21:30 AEST.

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4 min read
Published 1 July 2021 at 4:55am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS