Simon Clarke has won stage five of the 109th Tour de France. The Australian won Wednesday’s difficult stretch over the cobblestone sections of northern France in a breakaway sprint ahead of Dutchman Taco van der Hoorn. Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen took third place on the 153.7-kilometre section from Lille to Arenberg. A total of eleven cobblestone sectors with a total length of 19.4 kilometers had to be mastered.
In the general classification, Belgian Wout van Aert successfully defended the leader’s yellow jersey. Of the contenders for overall victory, however, only defending champion Tadej Pogacar, who is fourth, 19 seconds behind van Aert, was unscathed. Primoz Roglic, last year’s second Jonas Vingegaard and Alexander Wlassow lost valuable time.
“I didn’t have a team in the winter, so I wanted to make the best of this season. My team boss came to me in the morning and told me to go to the group today. So I thought maybe today is my day. I can’t believe it worked. I had terrible cramps,” Clarke said. The 36-year-old also gave the Israel-Premier Tech team the long-awaited first stage win. Second in the sprint of a breakaway group was Taco van der Hoorn from the Netherlands ahead of Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen.
In the overall standings, Belgian Wout van Aert once again successfully defended his yellow jersey. USA’s Neilson Powless is 13 seconds back in second, Boasson Hagen is third with a second more. Pogacar is now fourth, 19 seconds behind van Aert. Vingegaard is seventh, 40 seconds back and should now captain Team Jumbo-Visma as Roglic lost over two minutes.
Roglic and Vingegaard had already been set back by defects when Pogacar attacked in the fourth last cobblestone sector and also distanced Vlasow, captain of the German team Bora-hansgrohe. With the classics specialist Jasper Stuyven, Pogacar chased a five-man lead group and even drove in the virtual yellow jersey for a short time. In the final, however, the dominator also seemed to run out of strength and concentrated on gaining time on his ranking competitors.
Vingegaard and Vlasov lost just 13 seconds to Pogacar in the first big chasing group. The duo owed that largely to the work of van Aert, who risked his yellow jersey to help out Vingegaard. Although Roglic also had helpers at his side, he only reached the finish line 2:08 minutes after Pogacar.
Eleven cobblestone sectors with a total length of 19.4 kilometers had to be mastered. Compared to the stage won by Degenkolb in 2018 over the pavés of northern France, the organizers chose longer sectors this year to make the race more difficult.
The teams adjusted the setup of the bikes according to the challenges of the day. So drove Wlassow, the bike that the team also uses in the spring classic Paris-Roubaix. A suspension is installed on the handlebars, which can be switched on and off. In addition, 32 millimeter wide tires without inner tubes were mounted, on normal stages a maximum of 28 millimeters are ridden. A thicker chainring should ensure that the chain does not fall off.
Right from the start, the field drove with a lot of pressure on the pedals. In the first hour of racing alone, the average was 51 km/h. The nervousness was great, even van Aert was careless. After colliding with teammate Steven Kruiswijk, the Belgian crashed about 95 kilometers from the finish. On the hunt back into the field, he also collided slightly with a team vehicle.