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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, July 1, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office. - Robert Frost

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Tour de France stage five team reports

We posted the report from the race organizer with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates:

Tadej Pogačar continued his good record with Tour de France time trials, taking victory on stage 5 in the race against the clock.

After 284 days from the success in the time trial at La Planche des Belles Filles in the Grande Boucle 2020, the Slovenian of UAE Team Emirates achieved a splendid performance in the 27.2 km time trial from Changé to Laval on a course characterized by continuous ups and downs.

Tadej Pogacar

Tadej Pogacar finishes his ride. Sirotti photo

Pogačar took victory with 19” over Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) and with 27” over Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).

Eleventh place went to Mikkel Bjerg (+ 1’01”), while Brandon McNulty was the unfortunate victim of a fall on wet roads.

Today’s result (15th win of the season for UAE Team Emirates) means Pogačar climbs to 2nd place at 8” from Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). The Slovenian retains the lead in the youth ranking.

Here is how Pogačar commented on his success: “Today was a beautiful day for me: I didn’t make any mistakes and I rode in perfect weather and temperature conditions, while other athletes were caught in the rain.

"I knew the route and, compared to the last two time trials that I had raced and in which I had started too strong, today I set the right pace that allowed me to pedal perfectly until the end.

"The goal of the day was not to lose ground from my direct rivals, in reality I gained important seconds and this makes me very happy. I can’t say if it was better not to have taken the yellow jersey or not, but I’m very happy to wear the white jersey also”.

The 6th stage of the Tour de France will start from Tours and will end in Chateauroux, after 160.4 km on a flat course.

Here's the report from second-place Stefan Küng's Groupama-FDJ team:

For some time, Stefan Küng thought it was HIS day on the Tour de France. In the first time trial of the event, contested on Marc Madiot’s lands, the Swiss and European TT champion did hold the best time for a while. However, Tadej Pogacar destroyed his hopes in the last minutes of the race, and the Tour winner actually was the only one to ride faster than “King Küng” on stage 5 this Wednesday. A frustrating runner-up position, but one that fills revenge… As for David Gaudu, he put on a good fight in this first crucial test of the Tour.

Stefan Kung

Only one rider could beat Stefan Küng today. Sirotti photo

On Wednesday, the Tour settled down in the land of the Madiot brothers, and the team actually had some ambitions on this special day through its time trial specialist Stefan Küng. “It is always difficult to be a prophet in your country”, said Marc in the morning. However, the hard-going course from Changé to Laval, over 27.2 kilometers, surely suited the European champion. “Stefan is going to have fun,” even claimed Arnaud Démare, the team’s first starter, after completing his time trial. When the Swiss machine hit the starting ramp, Dane Mikkel Bjerg still had the fastest time at the finish, and the sky was finally clearing after a rainy episode.

Stefan Küng started his mission at 3:31 p.m., and was already fulfilling it perfectly after ten kilometers, being nine seconds faster in the first checkpoint. He increased that gap to twenty-four at the second intermediate, and with power and style, went on to improve the best time by 36 seconds at the finish. “I felt really good”, he said a few minutes later. “In this kind of course, you have to go really hard all the time, but not too much otherwise you blow up. I think I managed it quite well and I hope that will be enough for the win today.”

For almost an hour, it looked like that. A handful of riders certainly came close to his performance, but all of them ended up struggling in the final part. Even his biggest opponent on paper, Wout van Aert, couldn’t keep up until the very end. Ultimately, the danger came from a GC contender. After scoring the best times at the first and second checkpoints, Tadej Pogacar eventually beat Stefan Küng for eighteen seconds on the line. Gutted at first glance, the Swiss rider then proved fair play.

“We already saw last year on the Planche des Belles Filles time trial what he was capable of,” he said. “He came ready on the Tour and he is in my opinion the best rider in the world. He was very strong, so hats off to him for his performance. We all did a great job, we all gave it our all. I can’t blame myself for anything. I did what I could and what I wanted. Obviously, I’m still disappointed because I came to win and not to come second, but the Tour is not over. There is one time trial left and I hope his opponents will tire him out in the mountains a bit and that I can get my revenge”.

A runner-up for the second time in his career on the Tour, Stefan Küng will gofor more in the vineyards of Saint-Émilion later in the race. In the meantime, local man Marc Madiot tried to think positively about the day. “We’re almost where we wanted to be,” he said. “There wasn’t much missing. There is nothing to complain about in terms of support, equipment, or the way we managed the race. I think Stefan did the perfect time trial. One guy was just stronger than us, but other than that, everything was executed in an exceptional way. It’s quite a good day with Stefan’s second place and David’s good race. David remains in the top 20 overall and is quite close to the best climbers. This is a very interesting situation ahead of the next decisive events of the Tour”.

On Wednesday, the young rider from Brittany limited his losses thanks to a good time of 34’14’’. Tonight he sits 17th overall, 2’35 behind Mathieu van der Poel, but less than a minute from the top 10. “I’m satisfied,” he said. “I think I was even above the initial plans in terms of watts. I’m happy with my time trial, and it’s a good start to the Tour overall. Everyone is committed. It didn’t pay off for Stefan today, but I think everyone has the legs in the team and it would be good to pull it off tomorrow with Arnaud in the sprint”. “We will stay focused and go for a stage victory as quickly as possible, maybe tomorrow with Arnaud if he has recovered all his means,” concluded Marc.

Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team posted this stage five report:

Wout van Aert has been unable to fulfill his ambition to take the stage win and the yellow jersey in the first of two time trials in the Tour de France. The Belgian road champion rode a more than decent time trial, but lacked the right form to excel. He finished fourth and that was one place behind his surprising Team Jumbo-Visma teammate Jonas Vingegaard. The injured Primoz Roglic showed his fighting spirit and rode to a deserving seventh place. Tadej Pogacar won the stage.

Jonas Vingegaard

Jonas Vingegaard turned in a great ride. Sirotti photo.

On the hilly route of more than 27 kilometres Tony Martin, Sepp Kuss and Mike Teunissen rode their race against the clock early in the day. The trio had long finished when Steven Kruijswijk prepared for his ride. The Dutchman rode a decent race and recovered somewhat after the physical problems of the first days.

Then it was Vingegaard, Roglic and Van Aert’s turn. The Dane got off to a flying start and fell just short to beat the fastest time of European time trial champion Stefan Küng. Roglic organised his time trial well and he rode to an encouraging seventh place despite his battered constitution.

The Slovenian explained that it was not really easy. “It was hard today. I really gave everything. I don’t feel in great shape and I'm covered in abrasions from head to toe. Step by step I feel a little better. We will continue to give everything as a team every day and then we will see how far we can go. I am proud that I gave everything today. That’s all I can do.”

Number three Vingegaard was pleased with his performance. “I can be very satisfied with my time. I’m close to the top. I don't see myself as a pure time trial specialist. I have done some good time trials this year. I didn't expect that I would set a top time in this race. It’s also positive that Primoz feels better step by step. I hope he recovers fully and quickly. In any case, the right form is there.”

“I didn’t expect Pogacar to take the win. But you can’t call it a surprise anymore”, Van Aert said after his time trial. The versatile Belgian doesn’t blame himself. “I gave everything and made no mistakes along the way. After a few kilometres I noticed I didn’t have the legs needed to win today. I did not have the surplus. The disappointment now prevails. I had hoped to be closer to the day’s victory”, he concluded.

Here's the report from Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Laval returned as a stage finish for the first time in 22 years, and if back then witnessed a bunch sprint won by current Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Tom Steels, now it scheduled a rolling 27.2km individual time trial. Despite being a medium-distance stage against the clock, it ended up reshuffling the general classification and opening some significant gaps between the yellow jersey contenders.

The first of our riders to put in a strong effort was Mattia Cattaneo. Bronze medallist at the National ITT Championships, the Italian paced himself superbly and went into the hot seat at the finish, where he remained for some time before his result was bettered. Then Kasper Asgreen made his way to the ramp and the Danish Champion produced a really solid ride that at one point saw him go fastest through the first intermediate checkpoint, before eventually finishing sixth.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe hits the road. Sirotti photo

Second on the GC at the start of the day, Julian Alaphilippe was the last Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider to venture out on the course. Victorious on the opening day of the Tour de France, the 29-year-old Frenchman concluded the stage in 14th place, a result that saw him move down two places in the standings but still with a hefty margin on many of the riders vying for a good overall result.

“I didn’t have a good day. I immediately felt that and rode so that I wouldn’t lose too much time. I liked the course and was hoping for a better time at the finish, but in the end it’s the legs that do the talking. I’m not disappointed, as I gave everything and it is as it is. So far, it’s been an incredible Tour de France for our team and we hope more opportunities will come along the way so we get to savour other memorable moments together”, said Julian after the stage.

Another Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider, Mark Cavendish enjoyed a rather quiet day in the saddle and will continue to sport the green jersey which he won a decade ago as the peloton travels to central France.

And here's the report from the INEOS Grenadiers team:

Richie Porte put in a strong time trial performance to finish ninth on stage five on a mixed day for the INEOS Grenadiers.

Porte was the fastest Grenadier and was provisional third when he finished, before dropping down to ninth at the end of the TT as Tadej Pogacar won the stage to move up to second overall.

Richard Carapaz and Geraint Thomas both lost time to Pogacar on the stage, as Carapaz now sits ninth overall (+1:44) with Thomas 12th (+1:54).

Richie Porte:
"It was a good performance. It was nice to get a dry run at it, it’s cleared up a bit. Sitting there watching on the bus the weather wasn’t the nicest, especially for the poor guys who went out in the rain. For me the weather was fine, I changed the wheel before the start as the wind picked up after the recon. 

“I’m not in the spot that I’d like to be because of the crash on stage one that I got caught up behind, but it is what it is. I’m not sure the other teams are going to give me any breathing space anyhow, but it’s a good tactical card to have. At the end of the day, I’m here for Carapaz or G if needs be, I know what my job here is at this race.”

Geraint Thomas:
“I think I rode the best TT I could, I went out a little too conservative - it’s what I had really. Obviously, I didn’t feel 100% but I don’t wart to bang on about that, I tried to do what I could and it wasn’t enough really.

“The Dauphine time trial was definitely in my mind and I knew on this course there was no real room to recover if you went out too hard as there weren’t too many downhill, so I tried to ride a bit more flatline. I think it was decent enough pacing, but not enough power.

“I woke up this morning and felt terrible, but once I got going and loosened up it was better. It’s just one of those things that you have to crack on and deal with - just keep fighting I guess.”

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