Mathieu van der Poel hails 'one of my best days on a bike' as he keeps Tour de France lead

The Dutchman finished better than every GC rider apart from stage winner Tadej Pogačar

Mathieu van der Poel keeps yellow
(Image credit: Getty)

For a man with a palmarès as varied and as long as they come, for Mathieu van der Poel to claim he had just ridden one of the performance of his lifetime is a warning to the future about yet more success that beckons.

The Alpecin-Fenix rider began stage five of the Tour de France in the yellow jersey, holding an eight second buffer to the man he inherited the lead off on Sunday, Julian Alaphilippe.

Across the 27.2km time trial course on Wednesday, few expected Van der Poel to hold onto the race's lead, for while two previous top-10s in TTs had came before, the cyclocross world champion is not known for his testing ability.

But then it's foolish to discount him, and probably not very surprisingly he finished fifth on stage five, 31 seconds off stage winner Tadej Pogačar, but faster than Primoż Roglič, Geraint Thomas, Mikkel Bjerg and just a second off Wout van Aert.

Crucially, Van der Poel keeps yellow: the margin is still eight seconds, but this time it's Pogačar behind him, and Van der Poel's story goes on.

"I think it's better than we even expected," the 26-year-old told the media after the stage. 

"Today I had one of the best days I had so far in my career on the bike. I felt really, really strong. And also the jersey gave me wings. 

"It was really special to ride this jersey to the French crowds, and I'm really proud of this achievement. It's one that I will remember for a long time."

It was just the second time that Van der Poel had ridden the set-up he opted for, and he admitted that he had been working on improving his time trialling.

The result, however, was not what he had envisaged. "I think I really surprised myself today," he continued.

"Last summer I knew that I had to watts to compete with  the strongest guys in time trials but it was just a matter of position.

"It was something I was already asking about for a longer time, to put some efforts in time trials because it can make a difference  in small stages like the BinckBank Tour.

"Today we changed the handlebars. It was not really custom made for me, but it was just more aerodynamic. We also raised the bar a little bit so I was more comfortable. And then of course, the helmet and the wheels."

Stage six should see the sprinters triumph, and while stage seven could go any possible way, it's probable that Van der Poel will keep hold on yellow until the weekend.

"I think the mountain stages, it's really not realistic to keep the jersey against Pogačar," he said.

Maybe I could keep it for another two days. But then I have to give it back to a climber I think."