Former Giro champion Hindley wins Tour mountain stage to claim yellow jersey as Pogacar loses ground


LARUNS, France—The first mountain stage of the Tour de France produced a new race leader on Wednesday and firmly indicated that defending champion Jonas Vingegaard has the upper hand in his duel with two-time winner Tadej Pogacar.

On his Tour de France debut, former Giro d’Italia champion Jai Hindley took the yellow jersey after winning the 162.7-kilometer (100.9-mile) fifth stage that also included a daunting 15.2-kilometer (9.4-mile) grind up Col de Soudet.

Vingegaard made the most of the brutal climb of Marie-Blanque, the third and last ascent of the day, to launch a sharp attack that was left unanswered by Pogacar.

“He was just stronger today,” Pogacar said.

Vingegaard moved into second place in the general classification, 47 seconds behind Hindley. Pogacar was sixth overall, 1 minute, 40 seconds back. Previous leader Adam Yates, a teammate of Pogacar, dropped to fifth.

Hindley was part of an early breakaway and became the first Australian leader of the race since Rohan Dennis back in 2015.

“I was surprised when I was part of the break, and the bunch didn’t really react,” Hindley said. “We decided to start working in the group and just have fun. Initially my idea was to just get a buffer to the other general classification guys.”

Vingegaard perfectly timed his attack after American teammate Sepp Kuss imposed a fast and exhausting tempo that took its toll on Pogacar, who found out after the finish that his girlfriend had crashed during the women’s Giro in Italy, and may have suffered a concussion.

“It’s a bit more of a sad news than losing 50 seconds to Jonas, or 1 minute,” Pogacar said.

Vingegaard stopped short of celebrating, perfectly aware that the Tour is a three-week race of attrition full of twists and turns.

“I know Tadej, he never gives up,” Vingegaard said. “It will be a fight all the way to Paris.”

Hindley, who rides for the Bora-Hansgrohe team, was part of a 36-man group that managed to escape from the pack early on. Following several moves from other contenders including Wout van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe, Hindley attacked 4 kilometers before the Marie-Blanque summit.

“On the Soudet I started thinking about a stage win, at the bottom of the climb I also saw my parents which was really special and emotional,” Hindley said. “When I attacked, everything went so fast, I knew I had a good chance, but I only started really believing on the home straight.”

After cresting first, Hindley went all in, averaging 55.8 kph (34.6 mph) from the top of the mountain to the finish, with a maximum speed of 82.9 kph (51.5 mph) in the downhill. Giulio Ciccone was second, 32 seconds off the pace, with Felix Gall completing the stage podium.

Vingegaard crossed the finish line 34 seconds behind, with Pogacar struggling 1 minute, 38 seconds adrift.

Vingegaard dethroned Pogacar last year and arrived in top form to defend his title. Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates, was untouchable earlier this year but a crash two months ago that left him with a broken wrist requiring surgery has hampered his preparations for the Tour.

“The high mountains have spoken the truth,” UAE team principal Mauro Gianetti said. “Vingegaard is at the top and Tadej has yet to reach his best. It was only the fifth stage, hopefully we will improve, there is a lot of work to do.”

Pogacar will need to recover quickly since Thursday’s sixth stage is even more brutal, featuring three big climbs including a mountain-top finish.

Image credits: AP

Read full article on BusinessMirror