Defending champion Tadej Pogacar was also in his element on the cobbles in the hell of the north. The Slovenian left all other contenders for the overall victory on a chaotic day.

Even Tadej Pogacar had to catch his breath after the wild chase over the dusty cobblestone streets of northern France. Visibly relieved, the defending champion of the Tour de France crossed the finish line at the notorious forest of Arenberg in his completely dirty jersey.

The 23-year-old excelled on the bumpy pavés and gained valuable time on his competitors. Chief challenger Primoz Roglic conceded a big deficit and injured his shoulder in a fall.

“It was a really good day, I felt very strong. That gives me a big boost of motivation. The cobblestone sectors were really hard. It may have looked easy, but it wasn’t at all,” said Pogacar. The Australian Simon Clarke secured the stage win in a sprint in a five-man breakaway group. The Belgian Wout van Aert successfully defended the leader’s yellow jersey.

Pogacar is now fourth

On last year’s second Jonas Vingegaard and Alexander Wlassow, captain of the German team Bora-hansgrohe, Pogacar won 13 seconds with an attack on the fourth to last of eleven pieces of cobblestone. On Roglic even more than two minutes. The Slovenian dislocated his shoulder in a fall. “I couldn’t straighten it right away, so I had to sit in a spectator’s chair. I have a special technique and that’s how I put it back together,” said the 32-year-old in a TV interview. He wants to continue the tour.

The captain’s question should be clarified in the Jumbo-Visma team. Vingegaard is 21 seconds behind Pogacar while Roglic is well over two minutes behind. “It was extremely fast and extremely hectic. It was an elimination race. The team drove well, »said Vlasov’s helper Maximilian Schachmann. Vlasov is 12th, 37 seconds behind fourth-placed Pogacar.

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.

The fact that the damage to Vingegaard and Vlasov was limited was mainly due to van Aert’s work. The Belgian risked his yellow jersey and sacrificed himself for Vingegaard. “I was surprised myself that I still have yellow,” said van Aert. “In the end, the damage wasn’t that great. We’re still doing well in the overall standings with Jonas.”

The nervousness in the field was great

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.

The incidents seemed to have left their mark, as van Aert was unusually far behind on the cobblestone passages. Things didn’t go particularly well for the Jumbo-Visma team. About 35 kilometers before the finish, last year’s second Vingegaard had a defect and had to wait a long time for a suitable spare wheel. Van Aert dropped back to help the Dane. Shortly thereafter, Roglic also fell behind. Within a few kilometers, Jumbo-Visma may have lost the tour on the fifth section.

Spectacular crash with spectators

A serious collision with a spectator forced the Austrian professional cyclist Michael Gogl to give up the tour. First, the Swiss Daniel Oss hit a careless spectator on a cobblestone passage with his head and fell. Gogl, who was racing behind him, could no longer avoid it at high speed and flew over Oss’ wheel. According to his Alpecin-Deceuninck team, Gogl suffered a fractured pelvis and collarbone and needed surgery.

Both Oss and Danny van Poppel, who was also involved in the crash, continued the race. “People, please stay off the road,” wrote professional cyclist Simon Geschke on Twitter. There was a serious fall on the tour last year when the German Tony Martin crashed into a spectator’s cardboard sign held on the street, with which she wanted to greet her grandparents.