Pogacar wins Tour de France fifth stage as Van der Poel retains overall lead

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Slovenian Tadej Pogacar emerged as the overwhelming Tour de France favourite when he destroyed the field by winning the fifth stage, a 27.2km individual time trial, on Wednesday.

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The defending champion clocked a best time of 32 minutes between Change and Laval to beat Swiss Stefan Kueng, the European champion in the solo effort against the clock, by 18 seconds.

Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel took fifth place to retain the overall leader’s yellow jersey.

“I didn’t think I was going to keep the jersey. It was a great day, I’m really happy,” said Van der Poel, who is expected to surrender his lead when the race reaches the mountains on Saturday.

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Pogacar’s performance is a massive blow to his rivals for the title as 2018 champion Geraint Thomas ended up one minute 18 seconds behind and last year’s runner-up Primoz Roglic finished 44 seconds off the pace.

Pogacar is now second overall, eight seconds behind Van der Poel while Roglic is 10th, 1:40 down on his compatriot and Thomas 12th, a further six seconds behind.

Both Roglic and Thomas suffered nasty crashes in the opening days of racing and are now facing a huge challenge to beat Pogacar.

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Another top favourite, Ecuadorean Richard Carapaz, is ninth, 1:36 behind Pogacar.

France’s Julian Alaphilippe, who was hoping to recapture the yellow jersey, had an average day and slipped down to fourth overall, 48 seconds behind Pogacar.

Last year, the 22-year-old Pogacar was one of the top climbers in the race and was second on the last competitive day when he stunned Roglic in the final time trial to secure the title.

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Pogacar, who was the chaser last year, can now expect to be attacked left, right and centre as his massive advantage will force his rivals to take risks.

“For sure this time I’m already ahead and attacks will come everyday,” Pogacar, who believes he is in the same form as last year, told a news conference.

“It’s going to be hard but that’s the way it is. One day you’re the attacker and another day you’re the one being attacked.”

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The nature of the Tour, however, will keep Pogacar on his toes after several crashes on flat stages marred the first days of the event.

“We’ll see how I feel but I know there’s some tricky stages and even if tomorrow is easy on paper you never know what can happen,” he said. “So I will take it day by day.”

(REUTERS)

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