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Tour de France

Tour de France stage 5: Simon Clarke conquers cobblestone stage, Wout van Aert defends yellow

Cobblestone stage delivers carnage as Pogačar makes time gains.

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The cobbles delivered the expected carnage in stage 5 of the Tour de France.

Simon Clarke (Israel PremierTech) won a breathtaking final out of a group of four that survived from the day’s early break.

American talent Neilson Powless spent the day in the escape and made an early attack for stage honors only to run out of steam and finish fourth. The EF Education-EasyPost ace is more than consoled by vaulting way up to second overall behind Wout van Aert.

Behind, double defending champion Tadej Pogačar landed a GC hammerblow by extending his lead on all the top GC contenders.

Jonas Vingegaard, Primož Roglič, Geraint Thomas, Ben O’Connor, and yellow jersey van Aert were all caught in chase groups after various difficulties and lost time.

Clarke, Powless, Taco Van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalEnergies) were part of the day’s crucial six-man breakaway, with perennial attacker Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) and Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels) also present but fading before the end.

Powless unleased a superb attack with a kilometer to go but was hauled back by Boasson Hagen, who was in turn caught by Clarke. Van der Hoorn launched his sprint but the Australian dug deep and clawed him back, lunging past right at the last moment.

“I still can’t believe I got it on the line there,” he said. “Taco was still well ahead of me with less than 50 meters to go. I was cramping both legs and I just lined up the biggest throw I could possibly do. I just prayed it was enough. Honestly I need to watch the replay, I still don’t quite believe it.”

He talked about the game of chess which played out in the finale.

“Both the stages I have won in the Vuelta came to similar finishes, two-, three-up sprints. You really just have to bide your time. Even when Powless attacked, you just have to sit back and pray that the other guys panic before you do. I just tried to leave Edvald a little bit of space that he would get the jump on me. He took the bait, then I really had to chase him hard.

“Then Taco came straight over the top. I looked up and saw 350. I thought, “wow, that is still a long way to go. We have been sprinting since the 800 meter to go corner. I just tucked in behind him and went as hard as I could to that line.”

Van der Hoorn won the Brussels Cycling Classic with a superb sprint and history looked to be repeating itself in the final meters. He was devastated at the finish. “I’m feeling shit,” he admitted. “It is so close. I almost won a Tour stage, and then disappointment.”

Pogačar was in contrast far from disappointed, clipping away with Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) on the third-last sector of cobbles and closing to within 35 seconds of the leaders. The break duly accelerated to hold on to the finish, with Stuyven and Pogačar racing in 51 seconds back, but crucially finishing 13 seconds ahead of the Vingegaard/Thomas/Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe)/Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) group, and two minutes 8 seconds ahead of Roglic, who had dislocated his shoulder.

It was a hugely decisive day, and one which has once again reinforced the feeling that defending champ Pogačar is the one to beat at this Tour.

Battle commences

A six-man breakaway animated stage five and would ultimately dispute the finish. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Stage 5 was a day of chaos and change at the Tour, with dry, sunny weather negating the risk of muddy conditions but dust proving another challenge. The 157 kilometer race from Lille Métropole to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut had a distinct Paris-Roubaix flavor and was on the radar for both stage hunters and the overall classification contenders, as well as any riders lacking bike handling skills.

There were 11 sectors of cobblestones in all, the pave totaling 19.4 kilometers. The first of those sectors would occur 77.5 kilometers after the start, making it vital for teams to be well positioned before that. The last would conclude just 5.1 kilometers from the finish, providing a potential launchpad for success.

Given his aggression on other stages, it was little surprise to see Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) on the attack early on, even if there were no points up for grabs for the King of the Mountains competition. He clipped away right after the drop of the flag, being joined by Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Total Direct Energies).

Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels) and Simon Clarke (Israel-PremierTech) leaped clear in pursuit and bridged to the leaders with 27 kilometers covered. They built a lead of two minutes 50 seconds heading towards the intermediate sprint, where Van der Hoorn beat Clarke and Boasson Hagen for the top points.

Back in the peloton, Fabio Jakobsen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) led race leader Wout van Aert, his Jumbo-Visma teammate Christophe Laporte and Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) across the line.

Powless had started the day 1 minute 13 seconds behind overall and with 100 kilometers remaining, the break’s lead of 3 minutes 20 seconds put him firmly into the virtual yellow jersey. The rider actually wearing the maillot jaune, Van Aert, wasn’t too worried about that time gain but did have a moment of panic when he and teammate Steven Krijswijk hit the deck after a right hand turn. He initially nursed his wrist but quickly remounted and the duo set off in pursuit, drafting the team car for a period before rejoining the peloton.

The break’s lead increased to four minutes and nine seconds shortly before the first cobblestone sector but this advantage dropped when Jumbo-Visma hit the jets behind. Former world champion and past Paris-Roubaix winner Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) was close to the front as sector 11 approached by found himself off the back when he slid out on a corner and hit the deck.

Chaos on the pave

Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) led Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) onto the pavé. (Photo: Bernard Papon – Pool/Getty Images)

Somewhat inexplicably with two riders out front in the break, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) drilled the peloton’s pace heading over the cobbles with defending Tour champion Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) glued to his wheel. Jack Bauer and past world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) attacked and opened a gap of 25 seconds over the bunch, but were reeled in.

GC contender Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroën) had a mechanical problem on the sector 10 and was left a minute behind the bunch and chasing hard with just three teammates for support. Also distanced were Sagan and four-time Tour winner Chris Froome (Israel-PremierTech), while Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Alexander Kristoff (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert), Florian Senechal (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers) were surprisingly off the pace.

Others also suffered as the sectors ticked past, with George Bennett (UAE Team Emirates) crashing and stage 3 winner Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) being dropped.

With 40km to go the break was 2 minutes 11 ahead of the bunch, with O’Connor a further minute and 14 seconds back. Soon afterwards Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) ran into problems and took a teammate’s bike that was far too big for him to pedal seated. He was forced to take a spare from the team car and raced onto sector six at the back of a chasing group.

Yellow jersey Van Aert, a potential favorite for the stage, sat up from the main bunch and dropped back to help the chase group, which also contained former Tour winner Geraint Thomas (Ineos-Grenadiers).

With 30 kilometers to go the break was one minute 46 seconds ahead of the peloton, with Van Aert, Vingegaard and the other chasers two minutes 23 seconds behind. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) then came a cropper when he hit a straw bale prior to sector 5, hitting the ground hard. Primož Roglic also crashed, compounding a tough day for Jumbo-Visma, and ended up behind the Vingegaard group.

Defending Tour champion goes on the attack

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) shot clear of the bunch inside the final half hour of racing. (Photo: Bernard Papon – Pool/Getty Images)

Pogačar was in contrast enjoying luck that his rivals were lacking and remained close to the front. Gougeard was dropped from the break, with the other five leaders racing onto sector 3 with 20 kilometers remaining some one minute 4 seconds ahead of the bunch and one minute 51 in front of Vinegaard/Van Aert et al.

Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) hit the afterburners on that sector, ripping clear with Pogačar and closing the gap to the leaders to 35 seconds. They responded in turn and were 46 seconds ahead with 10 kilometers to go. The chasing group was 1 minute 23 back at that point with the Van Aert/Vingegaard/Thomas group at one minute 44 and Roglic at two minutes 48.

Cort cracked with 5.3 kilometers to go, losing contact with the break on the final sector of pavé. Powless then fired off an impressive move heading under the kite and got an immediate gap over the other three. Boasson Hagen closed him down, catching the American with 400 meters to go but being himself reeled in.

Van der Hoorn whipped past him and looked poised for victory, but Clarke dug deep and lunged past him right at the line.

Stuyven led Pogačar home 51 seconds back, with the Van Aert/Vingegaard group a further 13 seconds in arrears. Roglic’s group trailed in two minutes 59 seconds after the stage winner while O’Connor was at a distant, and disappointed, four minutes 12.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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