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Simon Clarke, 35, wins first Tour stage of his career
Wout van Aert retains yellow jersey on chaotic day
Tadej Pogacar cements position as favourite
Primoz Roglic loses over 2mins on Pogacar
Three Britons in top 10 of overall standings
Two-time champion Tadej Pogacar laid down the gauntlet to his rivals on a day of “carnage” at the Tour de France on Wednesday.
The Slovenian, who is chasing a hat-trick of titles this year, was left isolated by his team on the most dangerous stage of the race so far; over the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix in northern France. He was without his most reliable domestique over this sort of terrain - the Italian Matteo Trentin, who is not competing because of Covid - and any sort of mechanical or puncture could have spelled the end of his challenge.
But instead of cracking, Pogacar actually gained time on his rivals, showing his power, not to mention the bike-handling which saw him finish fourth at the recent Tour of Flanders, to escape in a late move with classics specialist Jasper Stuyven [Trek-Segafredo]. The duo very nearly caught the day’s breakaway, from which Simon Clarke [Israel-Premier Tech] emerged triumphant. But Pogacar will be pleased to have gained time.
— ITV Cycling (@itvcycling) July 6, 2022
Only some desperate riding from Jumbo-Visma, who were chasing back on with their general classification leader Jonas Vingegaard after the young Dane suffered a mechanical, managed to limit the damage. A gap that had gone out to nearly a minute over a group containing Ineos Grenadiers’ GC contenders Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates, ended up being just 13 seconds.
Vingegaard had team-mate and race leader Wout van Aert to thank for that. Despite a crash and a very close shave when he had to swerve around a team car, the Belgian saved Vingegaard’s Tour on Wednesday, pulling hard in the final 20km to limit the damage.
He could not do the same for Jumbo-Visma’s other leader. Primoz Roglic surrendered more than two minutes to Pogacar after a late crash caused by a stray hay bale which had fallen into the road. Roglic dislocated his shoulder in the fall, popping it back in himself while sitting in a fan’s deckchair. He is probably out of general classification contention now, though. Another general classification hopeful Jack Haig [Bahrain Victorious] crashed out entirely. Thomas came down in the same incident but fortunately was able to continue.
It was brutal. As the riders arrived back at their buses in dribs and drabs, caked in dust and sweat, they looked battle-weary and confused. “I’ve no idea who was where by the end,” Thomas admitted. “No idea.” He was not the only one.
Through the chaos, though, a clear picture is emerging. Pogacar, as expected, is on another level to the rest of this field. But the order behind him is becoming more clearly defined.
Vingegaard now looks like being Jumbo-Visma’s first-choice general classification contender, despite the youngster clearly being shaken by events on Wednesday. A mix-up over which spare bike he should climb onto after his mechanical betrayed a lack of experience. He lies 21 seconds behind Pogacar.
Ineos still have all three of their cards in play. Yates, Thomas and Dani Martinez are all within a minute of Pogacar as we race towards the first major climb of the Tour at La Planche des Belles Filles on Friday.
“It definitely could have been worse,” said Thomas, whose rear mech broke in his crash meaning he had to ride the last 30km with clicky gears. “But it also felt like it could have been better. But the main thing is I don’t feel too bad injury-wise and the legs feel good.”
And Pogacar? “Yeah,” he conceded. “It’s impressive because he doesn’t have a team either. He’s doing it all on his own. What can you say? He’s some boy.”
Clarke lands chaotic stage: As it happened. . .
Wiggins: ‘Most animated cobble stage of the Tour for 20 years’
Speaking on Eurosport, Sir Bradley Wiggins sums up the day perfectly, saying it was ‘carnage’. “From 1km that was carnage. That was the most animated cobble stage of the Tour de France for the 20 years it’s been included. It had everything today and I think it’s had a real shake-up of the GC (general classification). But the big man, of course, Tadej Pogacar, what can he not do?
“I think Chris Froome is just happy to get in safely. He has lost time today but hopefully Chris will shine when he gets into his domain in the mountains. Lots of action today. When [Wout] van Aert crashed, the yellow jersey, who would’ve thought that this morning? Geraint Thomas made it through so all in all it was a good day for the Brits.
“Tadej Pogacar again, a bit like yesterday when we found it hard to digest with Van Aert, Pogacar on the cobbles – amazing.”
Roglic loses over two minutes on Pogacar
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) finished the stage just 13sec behind Tadej Pogacar, while Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) – who reportedly dislocated his shoulder in his crash – crossed the line 2min 8sec adrift of his great rival. Also, I have just heard that Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), another of the general classification contenders, crashed out of the race earlier, while Michael Gogl (Alpecin-Deceuninck) also failed to finish the stage. I suspect it will take some time to piece together what exactly happened out on the road today.
Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), who I barely spotted today, is the highest placed Briton in the general classification having finished in Vingegaard's group, and will start Thursday's stage in eighth spot 29sec behind Pogacar. Tom Pidcock is ninth (30sec down on Pogacar), and Thomas is another second back in 10th. All in all, a relatively positive day for the British boys.
Van Aert retains yellow jersey
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) finishes seventh behind Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), 51sec adrift of the stage winner, with the defending champion narrowly missing out on taking hold of the leader's yellow jersey which is retained by Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
Clarke wins stage five at the Tour de France!
Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech), the 35-year-old Australian who was without a team at the start of the season, has done it.
— pro cycling trumps (@procycletrumps) July 6, 2022
Clarke timed his late surge to perfection before pipping Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) to the line with another old boy Edvald Boassen-Hagen (TotalEnergies) taking third.
What a stage, what a race. What lovely day for the breakaway, but a real day in hell for those trailing in their wake – especially Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) who is about to lose over two minutes on Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates).
1.1km to go
Neilson Powless attacks just before the flamme rouge.
2km to go
The maillot jaune is pulling hard on the front for Jonas Vingegaard in an attempt to salvage something from this cruel, cruel stage. Geraint Thomas is sitting in the wheels.
2.5km to go
Tadej Pogacar and Jasper Stuyven are working well together, but are unable to close the gap on the four-man breakaway. Geraint Thomas and Jonas Vingegaard trail the defending champion by 30sec, while Roglic is over two minutes back on the UAE Team Emirates man.
4.5km to go
Magnus Cort has finally cracked and dropped out of the breakaway. The four-man breakaway of Edvald Boassen-Hagen (TotalEnergies), Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) and Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) lead by 54sec.
6km to go
Geraint Thomas and Jonas Vingegaard continue to ride in the same reduced bunch alongside each other, but they are 50sec behind Tadej Pogacar. The five-man breakaway, meanwhile, is onto the final sector of cobbles and leads by 53sec – it blooks as if they will be challenging for the stage win.
9km to go
The slight frame of Tom Pidcock just peeled off the front of the group containing Geraint Thomas and Jonas Vingegaard, they are digging deep in an effort to close the gap on Tadej Pogacar. The defending champion, however, is not slowing and looks to be riding into the yellow jersey this afternoon.
11km to go
Tom Pidcock is riding his own line in the Jonas Vingegaard group, but I think it is too late for the young Briton to do much here today. Further back and Primoz Roglic is 1min 59sec behind Tadej Pogacar.
12.5km to go
The breakaway in on the penultimate sector of cobbles, leading Tadej Pogacar and Jasper Stuyven by 39sec. As it stands, Pogacar will be riding into the leader's yellow jersey here today – but the breakaway will be thinking of the stage win this afternoon.
15km to go
Amidst all of the chaos involving all of the general classification rivals, I almost forgot about the stage leaders. The five-man group is hanging on by its fingernails, leading the charging Tadej Pogacar and Jasper Stuyven by 43sec. This is an unbelievable ride from Pogacar. Proper Eddy Merckx-style racing.
18km to go
This is insane. Tadej Pogacar has jumped onto the wheel of classics specialist Jasper Stuyven and is taking it to the Belgian. Pogacar is a minute ahead of Jonas Vingegaard and Geraint Thomas, while Primoz Roglic is oaver two minutes down.
19km to go
Jasper Stuyven clips off the front of the second group on the road, while further back one of Tadej Pogacar's team-mates Brandon McNulty has crashed into a field.
20km to go
Primoz Roglic is around 1min 30sec down on his general classification rival Tadej Pogacar. The Jumb0-Visma rider has three team-mates – Tiesj Benoot, Steven Kruijswijk and Nathan Van Hooydonck _ helping him, while Jonas Vingegaard has Christophe Laporte and Wout van Aert, with the Dane just under 50sec down on Tadej Pogacar.
24km to go
Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM) has been dropped by the breakaway which now leads by just over one minute. Difficult working out who's who right now, but it is not looking good for Jumbo-Visma who arrived at this year's race with arguably the strongest team at the Tour.
26km to go
Alberto Bettiol is again riding on the front of the peloton, despite having two team-mates up the road. Very odd tactics that. The main beneficiary of the wok from the Italian is defending champion Tadej Pogacar who, despite having no team-mates alongside him for much of the stage, has barely misjudged a single pedal stroke here today.
27.5km to go
Primoz Roglic is chasing back on, attempting to weave his way through the team cars. He has no team-mates though as they have all dropped back to assist Jonas Vingegaard. The Dutch squad's Tour de France could be unravelling here.
Primoz Roglic has crashed, as has Caleb Ewan. Tadej Pogacar, meanwhile, remains the best placed of the general classification riders. Roglic is, as it stands, riding on his lonesome alongside his team car.
30km to go
Wout van Aert is playing a team role and has dropped back out of the peloton and is waiting for team-mate Jonas Vingegaard who he will then help chase back on. Vingegaard currently has Tiesj Benoot and Nathan Van Hooydonck riding for him. If he cannot close this gap, he will be losing an age of time.
35km to go
Jonas Vingegaard is having a nightmare. The Dane takes a bike from the team car, but it was way too big for him and he is forced to stop and take another one from a Jumbo-Visma team-mate Steven Kruijswijk. The breakaway leads by 1min 51sec, while the big unit that is Nils Politt sits at the head of the chasing peloton. Tadej Pogacar is looking supreme on these cobbles, the absolute picture of serenity while all around him chaos ensues.
— Sporza 🚴 (@sporza_koers) July 6, 2022
Van der Poel is dropped!
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) has been dropped. I repeat, Mathieu van der Poel has been dropped. Wow. Utter chaos out in northern France right now where the wind has picked up and the riders are having to deal with huge plumes of dust on each sector of cobbles.
Dust up on the cobbles
Note: always stand upwind when spectating on a dry Paris-Roubaix day pic.twitter.com/PJZHo2CGtn
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) July 6, 2022
40km to go
Dylan van Baarle leads the peloton on to sector seven of cobbles – Auberchicourt à Émerchicourt. The Dutchman has team-mate Geraint Thomas glued to his wheel. Van Baarle is constantly looking over his shoulder, making sure his team-mate is safe.
42km to go
Ben O'Connor is 1min 10sec down on his general classification rivals, chasing back on alongside just two Ag2r-Citroën team-mates. Peter Sagan is in the same group as O'Connor, as is South African climber Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) and French national champion Florian Sénéchal who is great on the cobbles.
45km to go
Ben O'Connor is chasing back on, the Ag2r-Citroën leader has some team-mates helping hims but he could do with a little more muscle alongside him. Florian Sénéchal (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) appears to have punctured, while Luke Rowe has fallen out of the leading group. Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), meanwhile, has got himself up towards the front of the peloton. The Colombian climber is a proper bike racer. The breakaway leads the maillot jaune – effectively the peloton – by 2min 40 sec as it tackles the next section of cobbles. Neilson Powless, incidentally, is the virtual leader at the Tour de France, though I suspect he will not be in yellow later on this evening.
50km to go
Ben O'Connor (Ag2r-Citroën), the Aussie whi finished fourth last year, has had a mechanical. The breakaway in on to the next section of cobbles, the three-star Wasnes-au-Bac à Marcq-en-Ostrevent. These nasty stretches of road will come thick and fast now. Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech) and Peter Sagan, meanwhile, have been dropped by the bunch.
53km to go
Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl has four riders up near the front of the peloton as it nears the Eswars à Paillencourt, before Michael Morkov takes it up once they hit the rough stuff. Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl doing Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl things with Kasper Asgreen on Morkov's wheel.
56km to go
Magnus Cort sits on the front of the breakaway which leads the peloton by 3min 26sec as they rattle along ov er the next sector of cobbles, the rough looking two-star Eswars à Paillencourt.
Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies), not for the first time at this year's Tour de France, has hit the deck. The Frenchman who is a decent classics rider appears to be in pain, writhing around on the ground in pain. Moments later, another Frenchman Mikaël Cherel (Ag2r-Citroën) loses control briefly and swerves to his right, somehow nobody goes down as a result.
‘Cobbled sections always bring some nervosity’
— Alpecin-Deceuninck Cycling Team (@AlpecinDCK) July 6, 2022
64km to go
Simon Clarke, the Aussie who was in the breakaway when the Tour had a cobbled stage in 2014, munches on some food as the small group glides over some lovely smooth asphalt. The next section of cobbles comes in just under 10km.
65.5km to go
Hearing that general classification rider Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) has puctured. If that is right then he may be losing some time here today, unless his team-mates are on hand and able to shepherd him back on.
67.5km to go
Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl has a rider at the head of the peloton, with a pair of Alpecin-Deceuninck lads tucked in behind. Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl, as I'm sure you will recall, failed to win a single cobbled classic this spring, in fact they failed to even get a rider on a single cobbled podium, and so they would love to win this stage today. A Belgian team who over the years has dominated those types of race.
70.5km to go
Jack Bauer (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) clipped off the front of the peloton once the first sector of cobbles were done, while Frederik Frison (Lotto-Soudal) is attempting to bridge over to the pair.
73km to go
Peter Sagan, the 2018 winner of Paris-Roubaix, crashed a few moments ago having lost his rear wheel on a tight left-hand corner. Tadej Pogacar has managed to get himself up towards the front, riding at second wheel tucked in behind Alberto Bettiol who has two EF Education-EasyPost team-mates further up the road in the breakaway. Having played a blinder earlier in the day by getting a pair of riders into the breakaway, I'm not quite sure why Bettiol is riding so hard on the front – he is effectively closing the gap on his team-mates.
74.9km to go
Dust kicks up on these dry cobbles. Breathing and visibility in the peloton will be difficult in these conditions. The lightweight climbers will be terrified as they hit the first of the bone-rattling cobbles that make this stage so dangerous. The breakaway, meanwhile, has navigated its way over the first section safely.
Here we go . . .
Edvald Boassen-Hagen (TotalEnergies), Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech), Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) and Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) are on to the first sector of cobbles. The pace in the peloton has increased, as riders battle for position up near the front.
80km to go
The peloton now has UAE Team Emirates and Alpecin-Deceuninck up near the front of the peloton as it inches towards the first sector of cobbles. The six-man breakaway leads by 4min 5sec.
87.5km to go
And breath. Wout van Aert has regained contact with the peloton following his crash. It will be interesting to see if that huge effort from the maillot jaune costs him later in the day. As it stands, the pace in the bunch has dropped a little, allowing the six-man breakaway to increase its lead to a shade below four minutes.
90km to go
Nathan Van Hooydonck has been gesturing to the rest of the peloton asking them to slow down as his team leader attempts to chase back on. It is heart-in-the-mouth stuff from Wout van Aert who almost clipped a DSM team car as he attempted to weave his way through the trailing vehicles that follow the race.
😰 Another scare for @WoutvanAert as he almost crashes into a car while chasing back.
😰 Nouvelle frayeur pour Wout van Aert qui manque de percuter une voiture en chassant pour réintégrer le peloton.#TDF2022 pic.twitter.com/sQ34GSTHEk
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 6, 2022
Van Aert crashes!
Race leader Wout van Aert has hit the deck, but he was quick to get back to his feet and is back on his bike. Jumbo-Visma team-mate Steven Kruijswijk was involved in the spill which happened after the peloton came out of a roundabout, it appears as if there was a squeeze on the bunch before there was a touching of wheels with Kruijswijk.
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 6, 2022
The maillot jaune took a bike change and is now chasing back on with Kruijswijk. They have yet to reach the cobbles and there is chaos on the rads of northern France, the chasing pair trails the peloton by around 50sec.
Pogacar: 'The cobbles are not so bad'
Speaking to Eurosport, Tadej Pogacar was sounding relatively calm ahead of today's stage. "The cobbles are not so bad," the UAE Team Emirates man said. "I have a good shape and if I avoid bad luck it should be ok."
100km to go
Breakaway's lead grows out to 3min 14sec.
The inside view | Matt White
Our man on the ground Tom Cary has been in touch. Tom spoke with Matt White, the grand fromage at BikeExchange-Jayco, ahead of today's stage. White reckoned today's stage would be 'dramatic'.
"Today's a mini-Paris-Roubaix so it cannot fail but be dramatic. And I mean, the big difference with Paris-Roubaix is that in the spring, 85 per cent of the riders want to be there whereas today about 20 per cent of the riders want to be there. So that totally changes the tactics.
"A lot of these teams have GC [general classification] leaders. Some of them have some very good classic riders who could potentially win the stage but they won’t let them off the leash. . . We're totally off the leash because we have no GC riders. We've got a couple of really good classic riders and those guys will be certainly getting freedom to tear it up."
But does White think Ineos Greenadiers, who have this year's Paris-Roubaix winner Dylan van Baarle within their ranks, attack in an attempt to gain some time for Geraint Thomas ahead of mountains? "No, that would be very foolish. They've got to look after two midgets. If you attacked without Adam [Yates] or Dani [Martínez], that would not be a good idea. It's gonna be very hard to manage three leaders. You can't leave the little fellas isolated."
110km to go
Slightly over 30km from the first of the cobbled sections for the breakaway. Their advantage is holding steady at 2min 40sec, but that could drop like a stone once they reach the, er, stones. Back in the peloton, Ineos Grenadiers are riding down the right-hand side of the road, lined out in formation as they shield their team leaders Geraint Tomas, Adam Yates and Daniel Martínez from the wind. It will be interesting to see how Martínez copes on the cobbles. The 63kg climber competed at the GP de Denain earlier this spring and managed to finish 29th and so that may suggest he is fairly handy on the pavé.
116.5km to go
Taco van der Hoorn led the breakaway through the intermediate sprint around three minutes ago, before Fabio Jakobsen (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) won a half-hearted three-up sprint from the peloton ahead of Wout van Aert. As a result, Jakobsen closes to gap in the points classification on Van Aert, but the Dutchman still trails by 60 points. Defending champion Tadej Pogacar is, by the way, isolated from his team-mates.
124km to go
The six-man breakaway presses on, giving it their all as their advantage grows out a little further still to almost three minutes. Further back in the peloton, Trek-Segafredo are riding near the front, as are Jumbo-Visma. As they speed through each small town or village, the peloton speeds up and slows down as it navigates its way around the road furniture.
Everybody will need to stay focused, nobody can afford to lose the wheel in front of them and, of course, nobody wants to get caught out behind and crashes which are, sadly, inevitable in a stage like this.
126.5km to go
The peloton has eased off the pedals slightly, allowing the six-man breakaway to increase its advantage to over two minutes now.
133km to go | And then there were six . . .
Simon Clarke, Alexis Gougeard and Neilson Powless have managed to bridge over to stage leaders Edvald Boassen-Hagen, Magnus Cort and Taco van der Hoorn. With two EF Education-EasyPost riders in the group it looks as if the team is planning something here today, possibly attempting to move Powless up the general classification, or ensure he is out of harm's way. The talented young American started the day 1min 13sec down on Wout van Aert.
136km to go
There is a second trio on the road made up of Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech), Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM) and Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) and they are closing in on stage leaders Edvald Boassen-Hagen, Magnus Cort and Taco van der Hoorn. Just 11sec separates the two small groups, while the peloton is a minute down. Theis stage is being contested at breakneck speed.
140km to go
Crash in the peloton, but thankfully just one rider – Max Walscheid (Cofidis) – went down. The German lost a handful of seconds, but after taking a bike change he was soon up and running, he enevn managed to give the TV cameras a thumbs up.
— 🅰ntoine VAYER 📸🖋️ (@festinaboy) July 6, 2022
147km to go
By the way, all of the cobbles some in the second half of the stage with the first sector – Fressain à Villers-au-Tertre – starting 77.3km from the line. It has been a fairly fast start to the day's racing. That trio of riders has increased its advantage over the maillot jaune to 18sec, while a big group featuring two general classification riders from EF Education-EasyPost (Neilson Powless and Rigoberto Urán) has made a move off the front. With team-mate Magnus Cort up the road, does this mean the American team are plotting something?
A three-man group comprising Edvald Boassen-Hagen (TotalEnergies), Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) and Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) has clipped off the front, but they have just a handful of seconds on the peloton.
And they're off!
Having finally ridden through the neutralised section of the stage, where there were a few minor crashes and a few mechanical issues for some riders, including three-time world champion, Peter Sagan, the flag has been dropped and the racing is under way.
On yer bikes!
While the peloton taps its way through the fairly long neutralised zone in the countdown to KMO, spare a thought for 18 brave amateurs who are currently entire Tour de France route one week ahead of the professionals, led by former footballer Geoff Thomas, raising over £1 million for Cure Leukaemia. Sadly, Thomas had to withdraw from the ride following stage eight due to an injury.
After testing themselves on the cobbles, Cure Leukaemia's The Tour 21 rider Alastair Kennedy from Leeds, said about stage five: “The cobbles were nuts, absolutely barking mad but also the best fun on a bike. I found sector four the worst and that was where the blisters and burning palms kicked in, but we all got through remarkably well and just had the one off but thankfully he was ok.” Chapeau!
Anyone who wishes to support through fundraising can do so at https://justgiving.com/campaign/thetour21
Remembering Richard Moore
Lovely touch from Tour de France organisers ASO who a short while ago paid tribute to the late journalist Richard Moore. Many of you will know that Richard was a co-founder of the Cycling Podcast and was a familiar voice to fans of the sport around the world. Richard was a lovely man with a huge, huge heart and a lifelong passion for the sport which came through with his brilliant writing.
— VeloNews (@velonews) July 6, 2022
Moving tribute to Richard Moore in the start village today. Hope we get a great day's racing over the cobbles now, the sort of stage Rich would have relished pic.twitter.com/b6YR2Ur1HD
— Tom Cary (@tomcary_tel) July 6, 2022
And welcome to our live rolling blog from stage five of the 109th edition of the Tour de France, the 157-kilometre run from Lille to Wallers-Arenberg, the day that some are calling a mini-Paris-Roubaix.
Before we have a brief look at today's stage, let's have a quick recap of Tuesday's action when Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) underlined his status as a generational talent with a sensational solo victory. It was an incredible performance not only by the Belgian, but of his team too – reminiscent of their dominant ride on the opening stage of Paris-Nice where they claimed a one-two-three in Mantes-la-Ville.
While Van Aert was able to bask in the glory of his magnificent seventh Tour stage win, compatriot Jasper Philipsen suffered the ignominy of celebrating his second place as if he had won the stage. . . because he had thought just that. To Philipsen's credit, his sprint was mightily impressive with the 24-year-old outmuscling the big unit that is Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) proving why, surely, it is only a matter of time before the Alpecin-Deceuninck sprinter takes a maiden stage win.
Van Aert's stage win saw the 27-year-old extend his lead in the general classification by 22sec, but there were no other changes of significance in the overall standings.
The great all-rounder also extended his lead in the points classification, although Fabio Jakobsen (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) will wear the green jersey on his behalf once again today.
It was another day in the breakaway for Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) who added a further five points to his tally in the mountains classification and so will wear the polka dot jersey for a third successive day. With no categorised climbs today the Dane will carry that leader's jersey into tomorrow providing he completes this treacherous looking stage safely and within the time limit.
Overall defending Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) kept hold of his white jersey as leading young rider, while Britain's Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), riding his maiden Tour, trails by 17sec.
So, what's on today's menu?
Cobbles, cobbles and a few more cobbles. Featuring 18km of pavé that make Paris-Roubaix – a race nicknamed the ‘hell of the north’ – one of the toughest one-day race on the calendar, today will provide the riders with a stern test. While the classics specialists may be licking their lips in anticipation, the general classification contenders and some of the lightweight climbers may be approaching this stage with a little more circumspection. There may be under half the amount of cobbles that feature in Paris-Roubaix, but those sections that do feature are tough – just two are rated as two star sectors, while the remaining ones are rated as three or four.
Given he has had, by his standards, a relatively quiet race so far, I suspect Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuinck) is plotting something special today, while his great rival Van Aert may also have something tucked up one of his yellow sleeves. The latter, however, may be on policing duty for team-mates Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard.
— Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix (@A_ParisRoubaix) July 6, 2022
A flurry of classics men – Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies), Florian Sénéchal (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) – will fancy their chances, while Pidcock, winner of junior and under-23 editions of Paris-Roubaix, may also have a crack.
Unbelievably, Telegraph Sport has made it all the way to this point without having rattled out one of the biggest clichés from the opening week of the Tour , so let's rectify that: the race cannot be won today, but it can be lost. While the stage win will be at the forefront of most of our minds, how the general classification riders cope on the cobbles will provide a fascinating subplot. To be fair to Pogacar and Roglic, both are decent bike handlers and have done well on the cobbles earlier in the season – the former finishing fourth at the Tour of Flanders, while the likes of Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) goes well on this sort of terrain. Positioning will be key this afternoon once they hit the first sector – Villers-au-Tertre à Fressain – at around 2.40pm.
And finally, the weather . . .
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