Tadej Pogacar delivered the first real blow in the battle for the final victory of the Tour de France 2021, winning the 27.2 km individual time trial from Changé to Laval and almost lifting the yellow jersey of the leader of the Mathieu van der Poel’s shoulder race (Alpecin-Fénix).
Although the Dutch rider kept eight seconds ahead of the lead, the UAE-Team Emirates prodigy was almost as irresistible on the hilly roads of Mayenne as he had been during his spectacular victorious climb to The Planche des Belles Filles last fall. .
Pogacar, best known for his climbing skills, said he didn’t expect to outrun rivals so markedly.
“I was in the wind tunnel [last spring] and learned a lot. But [before] I definitely made some mistakes, “he said.” Now I’ve found a balance. We’ve done a good job with my positioning so I’m pretty happy with the development.
As the reigning champion took home the day’s honors, the battle for overall supremacy focused as the peloton prepared for the long course east to this weekend’s first alpine stage. Oyonnax in Le Grand-Bornand.
In the wake of the Slovenian hang most of his rivals. Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers is now behind Pogacar by 1h36, the 2020 vice-champion, Primoz Roglic, is 1h40 behind his compatriot, and the 2018 winner, Geraint Thomas, has been left behind by 1h46. Thomas’ team’s four-pronged leadership strategy appears to have already been dismantled.
“Obviously, Pogacar is in the strongest position,” Thomas said. “But as we’ve seen in the first three or four days so far, a lot can happen and change.”
Still, there is no doubt that the 21-year-old was the clear winner and, with another time trial on the eve of the final stage in Paris, the omens are not good for those looking to the dethrone. Thomas, who struggled to overcome the pain in his right shoulder which he dislocated during the third stage at Pontivy, vowed to continue fighting.
“I think I rode the best I could,” said the Welshman. “My shoulder wasn’t 100%, but I don’t want to stress it. I tried to do what I could and it was not enough. I think it was a pretty decent pace, but not enough power.
“I woke up this morning and felt bad, to be honest, but once I left it relaxed a bit and it was better. But it’s one of those things. You just have to crack and face and keep fighting. “
The first time trial of the Tour proved to be a difficult test for Chris Froome, hampered by the injuries he suffered during the pileup on the first stage. The four-time winner of the Tour finished 121st on the stage and is 165th in the standings.
“Every day gets better,” he said. “Today was pretty nice, just to be [racing] by myself, especially after a few stressful stages. It wasn’t a total effort, probably around 85%, but it was good to open up a bit, to push a bit. But, day by day, things are improving.
Froome, like many in the peloton, is still treating the consequences of his fall at high speed on the road to Landernau. “I have a lot of black bruises on my upper leg and on my chest, but I don’t think I’m the only one in the field with muscle soreness. A lot of guys have come down the last few days and looking around I don’t remember seeing so many injured riders. It’s pretty scary.
Meanwhile, the spectator who caused a pile-up during the first stage of the race was arrested after showing up at a police station. The spectator, a 30-year-old Frenchwoman, is in police custody in a police station in Landerneau, Brittany. The spectator is accused of unintentionally causing injury and endangering the lives of others.