The defending champion delivered a Belles Filles-worthy time trial to win the stage and only narrowly miss the yellow jersey Wednesday in a ruthless reassertion of his rule over the Tour de France.
Behind him, Ineos Grenadiers saw its leaders suffer while the bandaged and bruised Primož Roglič embraced the different pain of a long-distance race against the clock.
Although Mathieu van der Poel defied expectation to retain yellow, the rest of the GC looks altogether different after the Tour’s opening time trial.
Here’s how the favorites stack up after Wednesday’s stage:
- Mathieu van der Poel: GC leader
- Tadej Pogačar: +0:08
- Julian Alaphilippe: +0:48
- Rigoberto Urán: +1:29
- Richard Carapaz: +1:44
- Primož Roglič: +1:48
- Geraint Thomas: +1:54
- Wilco Kelderman: +1:56
- Enric Mas: +1:58
- Bauke Mollema: +2:08
- Jakob Fuglsang: 2:16
- David Gaudu: 2:35
- Nairo Quintana: +2:45
- Vincenzo Nibali: +2:55
Pogačar potent, Roglic returns, Ineos splutters
If you’re going to defend a yellow title, do it the way Pogačar did it Wednesday.
The Slovenian was expected to go well in the hilly 27km against the clock, but his blazing 19-second win over European champion Stean Küng was of a level comparable to his Tour de France turnaround on the Planches des Belles Filles last summer.
Sitting around 1:40 ahead of Roglič and the two Ineos Grenadiers captains, the Tour could become “all against Pog” if the top contenders give him too much room in the stages to come. The Tour isn’t over, but it’s certainly become Pogačar’s race to lose.
The power that 🇸🇮 @TamauPogi has got to be putting through the bike 💥
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) June 30, 2021
Roglič is one man who sure won’t be giving Pogačar the space to breathe in the next two weeks.
Roglič posted a ride beyond all expectations to finish seventh Wednesday, just the day after he limped through stage 4’s fast finish bandaged from cleat to collar. Although Roglič still has a huge 100-second deficit to overturn, he at least looks back in the form to give it his best effort.
Neither Carapaz nor Thomas impressed on the roads out of Changé. Still nursing the pain of his dislocated shoulder, Thomas lost 1:18, while Carapaz had no excuse bar bad legs and bad form, hemorrhaging 1:44 on Pogačar. After starting the day perfectly poised with an eight-second lead over the defending champ, the Ecuadorian lost out, big time.
It's a gutsy ride from @GeraintThomas86 who records a time of 33'18" which puts him provisional 9th. @RichardCarapazM was the last Grenadier to start and he's currently on course #FuerzaRichie #TDF2021 pic.twitter.com/TYhJ273qPE
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) June 30, 2021
Alaphilippe and Urán hold firm as Kelderman crumbles
Wilco Kelderman had been confidently flying beneath the radar after avoiding upset through the traumatic opening stages of the race. But the wheels came off the Dutchman’s ride Wednesday. After sitting high on GC at the start of the day, Kelderman’s uncharacteristically off-par ride to 27th-place on stage 5 sees him slip down to nearly two minutes back on Pogačar. His race isn’t over, but it sure has gotten a lot harder.
Rigoberto Urán has been doing what Rigoberto Urán does so far at this Tour de France.
The Colombian has steadily but unspectacularly survived the first five stages and sits 1:21 back after placing 13th on Wednesday. It’s hard to see Urán packing the dynamite to move Pogačar from his lofty position, but Urán is solidly mining his way to a possible podium spot.
And Julian Alaphilippe? Almost the opposite of Urán – who knows what to expect from the flamboyant Frenchman.
Still sitting strong at just 40 seconds behind Pogačar after a solid TT on Wednesday, Alaphilippe has the potential to surprise. The mountains this weekend will prove his biggest enemy at this stage of the race.
UAE-Team Emirates perfectly poised, Ineos with two-card play
Tadej Pogačar and UAE-Team Emirates couldn’t have scripted it better.
The Slovenian crushed his opposition and soared his way to the top of the pre-race favorites with his time trial out of Changé – but crucially, he didn’t take the yellow jersey.
To take the weight of GC leadership so early into the race is a huge burden for any team to bear, especially for the perhaps underpowered UAE-Team Emirates. Pogačar and Co. will be free of the pressure to defend in the tough stages to come Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
What a TT from 🇸🇮 @TamauPogi!!! 👏
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) June 30, 2021
Ineos Grenadiers will have a ticket to ride aggressively through the Alps.
With Carapaz and Thomas sitting near-level on GC and Richie Porte looking impressive with a ride into 14th Wednesday, the British squad could use an attack and counter-attack play to disrupt UAE-Team Emirates and pressure Roglič.
And Roglič? He and Jumbo-Visma have no strategy to consider but going full gas whenever they can in the bid to bring back 1:40 0n Pogačar.
The time gaps are expanding but somehow the race is still delicately balanced. It all points toward a fascinating phase of racing through Friday’s hilly marathon-length stage and the two Alpine tests this weekend.