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We knew that Wednesday’s individual time trial was bound to throw the 2021 Tour de France’s general classification into chaos. Boy did it — now, the GC picture for the rest of the race has come into view.
Tadej Pogačar blazed to victory and vaulted to second place on GC, stamping his authority as the man to beat at this year’s race. Richard Carapaz, seen as Pogačar’s biggest rival after the opening four stages, suffered a major setback and slipped down the rankings. So did Primož Roglič, who is still nursing wounds from a nasty crash on stage 3.
Meanwhile, yellow jersey holder Mathieu van der Poel rode the ITT of his life to finish fifth place overall and retain the yellow jersey. It’s a fitting ride for the most all-around rider in the bunch.
Here’s what the star riders had to say after Tuesday’s stage 5 individual time trial:
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix): 5th, at 00:31
Van der Poel had the ride of the day, slotting into 5th place in the final standings, just behind perennial rival Wout van Aert. After the stage van der Poel said he hopes to hold the jersey until this weekend’s mountain stages.
“The yellow jersey gave me wings, it was unique to ride it in front of the French public,” he said. “I will remember it for a long time. The only time where I had touched my chrono bike so far this season, was at the Tour of Switzerland (ed., van der Poel also competed in a time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico in March). I really surprised myself. However, it is not realistic to keep the jersey yellow in front of Pogačar as soon as the mountain stages arrive. I think that it’s realistic to keep it for two more days. The course suited me very well, with climbs and descents, moments of recovery.”
Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates): 1st, 32:00
Pogačar blazed to the fastest time of the day, slotting into 1st place just past Stefan Kung.
“Among my performances in time trial, I place the one today (Wednesday) quite high. It was moving to have so many audiences at the edge of the roads,” Pogačar said. “I am very happy and motivated for the next steps. Judging from the time trial, I’m in great shape and my legs seem to be good. My form is roughly equivalent to that of last year.”
“I worked on [time trialing] after Tirreno-Adriatico, just before the Tour du Pays Basque. I learned a lot: at the beginning I made mistakes, I was gaining in aerodynamics but I couldn’t push on the pedals. Now I feel like I’ve found a balance, we worked well on my positioning, I am really happy with our progress. I started to feel better on my chrono bike a week before the Tour, thanks to my change of position. I knew I could have a great day, I was motivated.”
Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ): 2nd, at 00:19
Kung, the European champion in the ITT, spent most of the day in the hot seat, until he was finally overtaken by Pogačar with just a few riders left on course. The Swiss rider was philosophic about the near-miss.
“I have nothing to reproach myself with, I did what I could. Tadej shows that he is ready on this Tour, he was the strongest today, congratulations to him,” he said. “But inevitably there is a disappointment for me. I came here to win, not to be 2nd. Everyone will have forgotten this place tomorrow or even maybe tonight. Today’s route has me recalled that of the European championship that I won last year in Brittany. I was in the game today. I think my form will improve further in this Tour because my big race is at the Olympics. I think Pogačar will tire a little in this Tour. It will be different in the second [time trial]. I will take my revenge.”
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), 7th place at 0:44
Roglič expected to lose time today due to his injuries from his crash on stage 4. The Slovenian is riding with much of his left side covered in bandages to address the scrapes and cuts he suffered.
“It’s hard, definitely, all the time trials are always painful. Let’s say it like that. I just missed some power. Definitely I really squeezed everything out of myself so I stand behind it, and I’m super proud of it.”
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): 14th, at 1:11
Alaphilippe has said he does not intend to target yellow, but after 5 stages the French ace sits in 4th place overall.
“I could have hoped for a little better on this chrono… I really liked the course, the encouragement from the people. But, on this type of course, it is the legs that speak,” he said. “There are still plenty of opportunities, I have things in mind but I want to see how I recover and analyze why it is was not doing too much today.”
Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe): 27th, at 1:49
One of the biggest losers of the day, Kelderman’s shot at the Tour de France podium took a nosedive after a dismal TT performance. He slipped from 5th place overall down to 13th after losing nearly two minutes.
“Of course, I am disappointed today. After the strong TT in Dauphiné, I thought I could be ranked higher today,” he said. “We had to adapt my TT position slightly because of the wound on my elbow, but, unfortunately, that certainly didn’t help since I also felt I was sitting a little twisted on the bike. Anyway, it is what it is, and I am not looking for excuses. My power output was ok, and we have to analyze where I lost time. But, I am still optimistic because I know the shape is there. Our focus will now immediately switch to the first mountain stages this weekend.”