Simon Clarke powers to victory on decisive cobbled Tour de France stage five

Australian beats Taco van der Hoorn and other breakaway rivals in dramatic sprint finish

Simon Clarke
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In an incredibly dramatic day at the Tour de France, Simon Clarke (Israel-PremierTech) powered to victory from the breakaway ahead of Taco van der Hoorn and Neilson Powless (EF Education-Easypost). 

As the leading four riders went under the flamme rouge of stage five of the Tour de France, Powless opened up a powerful sprint looking to secure the stage win. However his late move came too early as the American lost power and was swept up by his breakaway compatriots. 

Clarke and van der Hoorn pulled the American rider back, before the duo threw their bikes at the line in a final push for the win. Clarke - who almost considered unwanted retirement over winter as he battled to secure a contract - was later declared the winner giving the Australian rider one of the biggest victories of his career. 

Behind the four Tour de France general classification leaders, defending champion Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) benefitted from the chaos to make huge leaps in his bid for a third overall victory. 

Meanwhile havoc was inflicted on his Jumbo-Visma rivals as both Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard looked to be suffering huge time losses in the overall standings. Other overall favourites also suffered in the melee including Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citreon) who also lost out in a manic day on the Paris-Roubaix cobbles. 

However, Wout Van Aert was the Jumbo-Visma hero again. Van Aert put in a huge effort to reduce the damage as he dragged Vingegaard back into contention to ensure all was not lost. 

Despite an early crash, the work of the Belgian hero meant that Vingegaard stayed within the top 10 overall and Wout Van Aert would keep hold of the yellow jersey for another day. 

TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE FIVE: HOW IT HAPPENED

It had been four years since the Tour de France route had visited the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix, and it was always going to bring the drama to this year's edition of the race. Once the flag dropped, the racing immediately exploded with a huge fight for the breakaway. In what was expected to be a fast and frenetic stage, Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education-EasyPost) got the attacks started as he was the first rider to make the break yet again. The Dane would soon be joined by two other riders.

Magnus Cort Nielsen, Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalEnergies) soon built a gap whilst the attacks continued to fly behind them. 

Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Simon Clarke (Israel-PremierTech) and Alexis Gougeard (B & B Hotels-KTM) were soon hot in pursuit of the leading trio. Powless had the advantage of having a lively Cort Nielsen up the road to support him, and the two separate groups ahead of the peloton soon united to form a group of six leaders in the breakaway. Nerves and tension were still on show in the peloton as the race was still in its very early stages. 

As the breakaway’s lead rose to 2-59, Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) was the virtual leader of the Tour de France. 

When the peloton reached the day's solitary intermediate sprint at Mérignies, the majority of the points had already gone the way of the breakaway. Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) took the bragging rights by beating Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) in the fight for the remaining points. 

With 98 kilometres to go, there was drama in the peloton as Wout Van Aert slammed into the tarmac. Van Aert had tangled with teammate Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) before the two hit the floor. All of the Jumbo-Visma riders were looking anxious as he gingerly got back to his feet holding his arm, but the Belgian was soon back on his bike and frantically trying to reach the peloton. Van Aert was dragged back by Christophe Laporte although nearly colliding with the Team DSM car in the process. 

At 80 kilometres to go, the cobbles were fast approaching and UAE Team Emirates were on the front of the peloton driving the pace. The breakaway disappeared into the dust with a lead of 3-34. Jumbo-Visma were battling to move Van Aert further up the peloton and ensure their riders were well placed. 

Knowing that he had teammates up the road, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) led the peloton onto the first cobbled sector as Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) suffered a rare mistake, crashing at the rear. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Jack Bauer (BikeExchange-Jayco) led the peloton off the cobbles and then opened up a gap as they pushed on in pursuit of the leaders.

64 kilometres to go as sector 10 brought suffering at the back of the peloton as Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) suffered another crash. 55 kilometres left to race and the breakaway were onto it.  Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) led the main group onto it and put the hammer down, igniting the action. 

Not long after sector 10, Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën) had a mechanical. AG2R Citroën sent some riders back to assist, but the Australian was rapidly losing time. 

Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) and his breakaway compatriots were 3-38 from the peloton as they entered sector seven. With 40 kilometres to go, the peloton led by 2022 Paris-Roubaix winner Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) entered the sector at frightening speeds which saw multiple riders drop out the back of the group. George Bennett (UAE Team Emirates) crashed amongst the dust and chaos. 

As the race entered sector six, there would be a huge surprise behind the peloton as Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was jettisoned from the pack. 

At 35 kilometres to go the next overall favourite to suffer misfortune was Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), with a puncture. After a far from smooth bike change, Vingegaard was back chasing as the peloton was torn apart. O’Connor was also continuing to haemorrhage time behind. The breakaway was onto sector five and there would be further chaos behind for Jumbo-Visma. As the peloton entered sector five a stray hay bale moved into the road bringing down Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) leaving the Dutch team’s race in complete disarray. 

With 25 kilometres to go, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) was benefitting from the melee in the peloton. After a huge turn again from Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) the gap to the breakaway was drastically reduced. Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was nearly two minutes behind the main field containing Pogačar who was firing on all cylinders to continue to do the damage to the Jumbo-Visma riders. 

The breakaway was onto sector three with the peloton hot in pursuit. Bora-Hansgrohe tore into the cobbles knowing that Aleksandr Vlasov was going to benefit hugely due to the misfortune going the way of Jumbo-Visma. 20 kilometres to go and the Pogačar group was just one minute behind the leaders, right on cue the defending champion along with Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) put in a huge attack which saw the gap to the breakaway plummet to 42 seconds. 

Stuyven was driving on with a stage win in mind and the drama was hotting up. With 15 kilometres left to race, Stuyven and Pogačar were stamping authority onto the stage - the duo very nearly had the breakaway in their sights. Alarm bells were ringing in the leading group and panic was ensuing. 

With just nine kilometres left to race, the breakaway had pushed back out to 50 seconds to Stuyven and Pogačar and the race was fast approaching the final cobbled sector. 

Whilst just 24 hours previously Jumbo-Visma made a huge statement on the road to Calais, today's stage saw all their work destroyed. Both of their team leaders were continuing to slip away from contention. As the race came off the final cobbled sector, Cort Nielsen was dropped from the leading quintet. At 3 kilometres to go, Stuyven and Pogačar caught the Dane whilst the leading four got ready to battle it out for the stage win. 

Under one kilometre to go and Powless opened up his sprint early as he powered away from his breakaway rivals. The American rider looked like he was going to edge it but van der Hoorn and Clarke were rapidly baring down on him. Van der Hoorn led the duo round the EF Education-EasyPost rider before in a dramatic twist, Clarke lunged for the line just beating the flying Dutchman to take the stage win. 

TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 5 RESULTS

1. Simon Clarke (Aus) Israel-PremierTech, in 03-13-35
2. Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert 
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) TotalEnergies, at 2s
4. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at 4s
5. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) EF Education-EasyPost, at 30s
6. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, at 51s
7. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 51s
8. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpeci-Deceuninck, at 1-04
9. Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Quick_Step Alpha Vinyl
10. Luca Mozzato (Ita) B & B Hotels-KTM,  both same time

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FIVE

1. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 16-17-22
2. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at 13s
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) TotalEnergies, at 14s
4. Tadej Pogačar (Svn) UAE Team Emirates, at 19s
5. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 25s
6. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at 36s  
7. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 40s
8. Adam Yates (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 48s
9. Tom Pidcock (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 49s
10. Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 50s

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