Tadej Pogacar took pole position in the Tour de France with a victory in the fifth stage of the time trial, while Geraint Thomas and Primoz Roglic fought against the pain to limit the loss of time.
Pogacar, who drove spectacularly in yellow during the stage 20 time trial last September, could not repeat the feat as Mathieu van der Poel completed the time trial of his life to keep the eight-second leader’s jersey.
But Pogacar’s victory that day – 19 seconds ahead of European time trial champion Stefan Kung – was a major statement less than a week after his title defense began.
Tadej Pogacar celebrates after winning the fifth stage time trial on Wednesday
Pogacar made a major statement in the time trial less than a week after the start of his title defense
The UAE rider Team Emirates completed the 27km running course in 32 minutes flat, with the top favorites grateful that the first rains had cleared by the time they started.
After being one of the few contenders to have avoided trouble for a few blue days in Brittany, the Slovenian seems in a strong position.
Roglic, heavily bandaged after his crash on stage three, also looked good as he set the seventh fastest time of the day – despite being 1min 40s behind Pogacar.
Mathieu van der Poel completed the time trial of his life to retain the eight-second leader’s jersey
Welshman Thomas, who dislocated a shoulder on Monday, finished 16th of the day, conceding 78 seconds to Pogacar but climbing six places to finish 12th overall.
“I think I rode the best TT I could,” said Thomas. “I came out conservatively, maybe too conservative, but that’s exactly what I had.
“I didn’t feel 100% but I don’t want to stress it. I tried to do what I could and it wasn’t enough, really.
Geraint Thomas (photo) and Primoz Roglic fought against pain to limit wasted time