UAE Team Emirates star and the defending champion Tadej Pogacar won the time trial stage to move second overall in the Tour de France on Wednesday.
The Slovenian was quickest on the 27.2-kilometre trip from Change to Laval, coming home in 32 minutes - 19 seconds ahead of Swiss rider Stefan Kung of Groupama-FDJ.
Dane Jonas Vingegaard of Jumbo-Visma took third ahead of his Belgian teammate Wout van Aert and Alpecin-Fenix’s Mathieu van der Poel, who hung on to the yellow jersey with a fifth-place finish.
“Today was a really good day for me,” Pogacar said. “It was just a really good day . I didn't make any mistakes. It was perfect weather for me but sadly some guys went out on wet roads.
“I had perfect conditions and perfect temperature. I checked the course. In the last few time trials I did mistakes after starting super-fast. I paced myself pretty good and found a perfect rhythm to the end.
“The goal was not to lose time, but I gained time so I'm super happy. I'm just excited for the whole Tour. I would love to have the yellow jersey but Mathieu looks super nice, so it's fine.”
Pogacar expects challenging days ahead even though he enjoyed a memorable day in the time trial.
“The attacks will come every day probably,” he added. “It’s going to be hard but that’s how it is, you are attacking or you are defending. I'm pretty motivated to see how the race develops.”
Pogacar made significant gains on all of his overall rivals. He picked up 44 seconds on Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), 1:18 on Geraint Thomas (Ineos), 1:41 on Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), 1:43 on Richard Carapaz (Ineos).
Van der Poel put up a spirited defence of the general classification lead by finishing a creditable fifth, 31 seconds down that keeps him eight second ahead of Pogacar in the overall table.
Van Aert lies third at 30 seconds, while stage one winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) finished in a time of 33:11 to end up 14th and slip to fourth overall, 48 seconds back.
Van der Poel, 26, was overwhelmed by his own performance on the day.
“I surprised myself today,” the Dutchman said. “I have to thank the team, we worked until midnight on the bike fit to try and get some more watts. I pushed myself beyond my limits, I am super proud of myself.
“I had some good reference points and saved some energy to really fight toward the end because I knew the last two kilometres were decisive. I had some left in the tank.
“I said yesterday I thought I would lose the jersey and it wasn't a lie. It's not my specialty but I've outdone myself today. I think it's better than we even expected.
“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.”
Thursday’s stage six to Chateauroux, covering 160.6km, is a flat course for the sprinters.
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLV) UAE Team Emirates 32 minutes
2. Stefan Küng (SUI) Groupama-FDJ + 19s
3. Jonas Vingegaard (DEN) Jumbo-Visma +27s
4. Wout Van Aert (BEL) Jumbo-Visma +30s
5. Mathieu van der Poel (NED) Alpecin-Fenix +31s
1. Mathieu van der Poel (NED) Alpecin-Fenix 16:51:41
2. Tadej Pogacar (SLV) UAE Team Emirates +8s
3. Wout Van Aert (BEL) Jumbo-Visma +30s
4. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) QuickStep +48s
5. Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ) Astana-Premier Tech +1:21