Pogačar is in pole position
There can be no doubt now: the defending champion Tadej Pogačar is the favourite to make it two wins in as many Tour de France editions.
The 22-year-old was in sensational form during the time trial, up by 11 seconds on the man in the lead, Stefan Küng, at the first checkpoint. By the end, he had beaten the Swiss by 19 seconds to claim his fourth stage win in the Tour.
Of all the compliments that can be laid at Pogacar’s door, one is how he makes every ride look so effortless. He never looks fazed or stressed, and he rode the time trial with a confidence that he would win. There was no stamping on the pedals, no obvious gurns that screamed he was suffering, just complete cruise control.
What does it mean in numbers terms? He’s eight seconds off the lead, with Mathieu van der Poel valiantly holding on to yellow, but of more importance is the time gaps to his rivals.
He boasts 40 seconds to Julian Alaphilippe; 1:21 to Rigoberto Urán; 1:36 to Richard Carapaz; 1:40 to Primoż Roglič; 1:46 to Geraint Thomas; and 1:48 to Wilco Kelderman.
The race is only five days old but already he is in a position of absolute strength. Interestingly, though, the UAE-Team Emirates man has never had to defend a favourable position in a Grand Tour. This is new territory for him. How will he react to the challenge?
As Geraint Thomas slips further back
Poor Geraint Thomas. A time trial just two days after he dislocated his shoulder would have been the last thing he wanted to do, the demands of the efforts forcing him into an uncomfortable and no doubt painful position.
From the moment he set off he was behind the pace required, and he was on a mission to not ship a substantial amount of time to his fellow general classification riders.
Unfortunately for the Welshman, he conceded more than he would have wanted, finishing 78 seconds adrift of Pogačar and 34 seconds behind Roglič.
It wasn't as bad as it could have been, and Thomas outperformed some expectations, but if he is to win a second yellow jersey he is going to have to attack in the mountains like never before.
He will take some solace knowing that a deficit of just under two minutes can be clawed back in quick time, whether through his own performance or through crashes, but he needs to start now.
But Primož Roglič limits his losses
Considering he is so bandaged up from his fall on stage three that he resembles a mummy, Primoż Roglič’s effort on the 27.2km course was impressive.
The Slovenian finished in seventh position, 44 seconds down on his fellow countryman Pogačar.
That will hurt Roglič, but he can take enormous satisfaction in how he rode the course, driving forward with attacking intent, aggressive through the corners, and smooth and consistent on the open roads.
Aside from Pogačar, no other GC riders put time into Roglič, and he gained a decent amount on a select few, especially Richard Carapaz, who is now just four seconds ahead of Roglič, a whole minute worse off than before the stage.
Perhaps the biggest significance to his day is that his injuries don’t appear to have physically affected him too much.
This weekend’s visit to the mountains could be explosive.
Ups and downs for other riders with an eye on yellow
Richard Carapaz certainly doesn't bank on his time trialling to win him stage races and Grand Tours, but even by his standards he will be disappointed with his performance on stage five.
The Ecuadorian was third on GC before the stage and looked to be Ineos Grenadiers' best option of winning the race, but now he is ninth and a sizeable 1:36 off Pogačar.
It is in the high mountains where Carapaz will aim to show his worth, yet he is now on the back foot more than he would have expected to be.
Elsewhere, Wout van Aert didn't have the time trial he had hoped would ride him into yellow, the Dutchman finishing 30 seconds off the pace, just one second better than Mathieu van der Poel who maintained his grip on the lead.
Other performances of note include Rigobero Urán's steady effort that puts him closer to Pogačar than any other GC contenders, with the exception of Julian Alaphilippe.
Heartbreak for Küng, but is this a platform?
Stefan Küng’s time trialling talents have always been known, the Swiss possessing the raw talent needed to produce fast times against the clock.
After all, you don’t become the individual pursuit world champion like he did in 2015 without being able to set a high pace and keep it for an extended duration of time.
But the Groupama-FDJ rider hadn’t really ridden to high-profile success until last year when he become European champion in the discipline. Since then, he has taken his form to the next level and his second-place in stage five’s time trial was the confirmation that he is indeed one of the sport’s current stars in the discipline.
He was well-fancied for the victory and looked in complete control throughout his ride, a man operating in the zone that he feels most at home in.
He didn’t quite pull off the win despite being in the hot seat for a good period of time, but this performance and second place could be the platform he has been looking for to establish himself as Filippo Ganna’s main rival.
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