The cobbled stage of the Tour de France caused the expected chaos. Only Tadej Pogacar was not harmed. His big competitor Primoz Roglic injured his shoulder.

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 really strong. That gives me a big boost in motivation. The cobblestone sectors were really tough. It might have looked easy, but it wasn’t at all,” said Pogacar. The Australian Simon Clarke secured the stage win on Wednesday in a sprint in a five-man breakaway group. The Belgian Wout van Aert successfully defended the leader’s yellow jersey.

Primoz Roglic falls back more than two minutes

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, which was put back in place by the supervisor. The 32-year-old says he wants to continue the tour.

However, the captain’s question should have been 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 run. 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 thrown back by a defect and a fall when Pogacar attacked in the fourth to last cobblestone sector and also distanced Wlasow. 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.

Wout van Aert shines through hard work

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 a yellow card,” said van Aert. “In the end, the damage wasn’t that great. We’re still doing well in the overall standings with Jonas.”

Eleven cobblestone sectors with a total length of 19.4 kilometers had to be mastered. Compared to the stage won by John Degenkolb in 2018 over the Pavés of Northern France, this year the organizers chose longer sectors to make the race more difficult.

The teams adjusted the setup of the bikes according to the challenges of the day. That’s how Wlassow rode 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 back after a fall.