Tour de France: Simon Clarke sprints to Stage 5 win as Jumbo-Visma suffer on day of chaos over the cobbles

Jumbo-Visma endured their own miniature Hell of the North in Stage 5 after a series of mechanicals and crashes pulled the carpet from under their feet on the cobblestones of northern France. Yellow jersey Wout van Aert and Primoz Roglic both hit the deck, the latter eventually losing over two minutes to Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) after the defending champion wrote another chapter in his scintillating career.

Australian veteran Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) took the spoils in Arenberg by the slenderest of margins over Dutchman Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) as the day’s breakaway went the distance in a pulsating 157km stage from Lille.

But the story of the day was the litany of misfortune that rained down on Jumbo-Visma as the series of 11 bone-jangling cobblestone sectors took their toll on a team that only 24 hours earlier ripped the peloton to shreds as Van Aert soared to a sensational solo victory in yellow.

Tour de France

Carnage on the cobbles: Van Aert, Roglic and Vingegaard incidents mar Jumbo-Visma’s day

41 MINUTES AGO

The Belgian race leader was at the epicentre of the drama once again, albeit for a nasty spill that put him and his team on the back foot before the first of the dusty cobble sectors had even arrived. Once back in the frame, Van Aert was soon forced to ride in the service of his co-leader Jonas Vingegaard after last year’s runner-up picked up an untimely mechanical inside the final 40km just as the stage was coming to the boil.

‘Nightmare’ situation for Jumbo-Visma Jonas Vingegaard bike swap chaos

Things got even worse for the Dutch-registered team after their other leader, the 2020 runner-up Roglic, hit the deck with 30km remaining after a collision with an errant hay bale – sparking a frantic two-pronged chase to limit losses on a day that turned the 2022 Tour on its head, making up for the lack of drama over the first four days.

To compound matters for Jumbo-Visma, it was the double champion Pogacar who rode clear of the main field with Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) in pursuit of the remaining five leaders up the road, the 23-year-old putting in a timely reminder of his supreme all-round abilities on the bike whatever the terrain.

Van Aert contributed hugely to a spirited chase as the Vingegaard chase group – which also included the likes of Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) eventually crossed the line just 13 seconds behind Pogacar, who underlined his status as outright favourite to take a third successive Tour crown by finishing an accomplished seventh following an effortless and swashbuckling ride over the cobbles.

The silver lining for Jumbo-Visma was the retention of the yellow jersey, the Belgian now leading the American Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) by 13 seconds on the new-look GC. Powless took fourth place on the stage after starring in the breakaway alongside Danish teammate Magnus Cort, the polka dot jersey.

Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalEnergies) is up to third place, one second behind Powless, after coming home in third position, while Pogacar – despite his monster ride – drops one place to fourth at 19 seconds.

‘Oh no!’ – Van Aert suffers nasty-looking crash ahead of the cobbles

After a baptism of fire over the cobbles, Denmark’s Vingegaard dropped just one place to seventh, 40 seconds behind teammate Van Aert and ahead of a trio of British riders from Ineos Grenadiers – Adam Yates, Thomas Pidcock and the 2018 champion Thomas.

But Roglic’s crash saw the 32-year-old Slovenian drop 37 places to 44th in the standings. The Criterium du Dauphine winner now finds himself 2’36” off the pace, his GC hopes in tatters with the first summit finish still days away.

Although it was later revealed that he had dislocated his shoulder in the fall, Roglic and Jumbo-Visma will count their lucky stars that his crash was not as bad as that sustained by the Australian climber Jack Haig of Bahrain Victorious, who was forced to withdraw from a second successive Tour because of his injuries.

‘My goodness!’ – Van Aert nearly collides with a team car

Clarke with the crowning moment of his career

Mirroring the exploits of fellow Australian veteran Mat Hayman, who won Paris-Roubaix in 2016 after starring in the breakaway, 35-year-old Clarke was rewarded for his persistence and never-say-die attitude with a maiden Tour stage win in the seventh appearance of his career – not bad for a rider who found himself without a team over the winter following the folding of Qhubeka-NextHash.

Clarke formed a chasing trio early in the stage alongside the American Powless and Frenchman Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM) after Cort, Van der Hoorn and Boasson Hagen had ridden clear shortly after the start of the 157km stage.

The six-man move built up an maximum advantage of four minutes over the peloton ahead of the accumulative 20km of cobbles, which peppered the final 70km of the route across 11 different sectors of varying intensity.

Gougeard did not go the distance, while Cort, on his fourth successive day in the break, was tailed off during the last sector. But despite the Pogacar-Styuven chasing duo coming within 40 seconds of the leaders with 10km to go, the remaining four riders were left to battle it out for the win in Arenberg.

Powless, who rode most of the day as virtual yellow jersey, made his move just ahead of the final kilometre only for the Norwegian veteran Boasson Hagen to drag the others back into the fold. When the rangy Dutchman Van der Hoorn danced on the pedals it looked like a debut Tour win was coming his way – only for Clarke to outlast him in a nail-biting drag race to the line to cap the crowning moment of his glory by channelling his inner Hayman.

“After the winter I had, when I had no team, to have Israel-Premier Tech ring me up and give me that chance – it was a reality check to help me make the most of every opportunity I get,” an emotional Clarke said.

“I still can’t believe I got it on the line there – Taco was well ahead of me with less than fifty metres to go and I was cramping in both legs. But I lined up the biggest throw I could do possibly do and just prayed it was enough. I need to watch the reply – I still don’t quite believe it.

“I moved to Europe when I was 16 and I turn 36 on the second rest day. That’s 20 years in Europe and the dream finally came true.”

Calamity upon calamity for Jumbo-Visma

With the breakaway battling for the win, more illustrious riders behind were fighting to save their race. After crashing while exiting a roundabout earlier in the stage – and then almost riding into the back of the Team DSM car while chasing back – Van Aert was deployed as a super-domestique after Vingegaard’s mechanical with 37km remaining.

As Roglic rode on in the main field alongside Frenchman Christophe Laporte and Belgium’s Tiesj Benoot, Jumbo-Visma at least had their Slovenian co-leader in the mix. That was until Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) dislodged a hay bale on the side of the road, forcing Australia’s Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) to hit the deck, with Roglic joining him in the melee.

‘Bang! Not what we want’ – Ewan down after bale crash

By the time Roglic was back on his bike and chasing on, he found himself behind Vingegaard who, with the help of Van Aert and Dutchmen Stevan Kruijswijk and Nathan Van Hooydonck, managed to join the main chase group in pursuit of Pogacar.

Van Aert was rewarded for his efforts with at least another day in yellow as the Vingegaard group came within 13 seconds of Pogacar over the line. But it was a dark day for Roglic, who saw his dreams of winning the Tour go up in flames with another early crash in the opening week – just as they had one year ago.

The Slovenian’s deficit is not irreversible by any means. But with compatriot Pogacar so indomitable on the hills – and all six summit finishes still to race – Roglic now has a mountain to climb if he wants to get his GC bid back on track.

The Tour continues on Thursday with the 220km Stage 6 from Binche to Longwy, which concludes with a punchy uphill finish which would usually have a rider of Van Aert’s ilk salivating. But given his efforts over the previous two days, the man still in yellow would be forgiven in sitting this one out as his Jumbo-Visma team lick their wounds after a hellish day in the north.

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