Ineos Grenadiers seemed up for it leading into the cobbles of stage 5. This was going to be there chance to take the race to Tadej Pogačar, the 23-year-old building his own yellow jersey dominance in the smoking husk of their previous hegemony. The power and skill of Luke Rowe, Dylan van Baarle, Filippo Ganna would surely isolate and disrupt the defending champion who could call on no teammates to protect his third title ambitions on the precarious Roubaix cobbles. But when does a Tour de France stage like this ever end up how you expect it?
Pogačar went on the attack as Jumbo-Visma flailed in misfortune, and while Ineos Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas also fell, the British squad had only to look at what had transpired for the yellow Dutch bus parked a couple up from theirs to realise that while things could have been better, they could have also been a lot worse.
“You never know what he’s going to do,” Ineos Grenadiers’ racing director Rod Ellingworth told CyclingTips of how Pogačar, the man they were supposed to put under pressure, instead took that role for himself. “I’m not quite sure what happened to our guys in that moment, we were all there, I think all of our guys were in good position and then there was that crash wasn’t there, I don’t know what happened next so it’s hard to say. I presume they got taken out by that crash.”
Geraint Thomas had gone down behind Jack Haig and Bahrain Victorious, but was quickly back on his feet and had Tom Pidcock to help him chase. By the finish, Jumbo-Visma had brought the gap to Pogačar to within 13 seconds and now in the general classification Adam Yates, Thomas and Pidcock sit only half a minute back on Pogačar.
“I think our guys rode well as a team,” Ellingworth continued. “When you think about how difficult it is, Jumbo had a shocker, Ben O’Connor had a shocker, I think something went wrong with the guys to be where they were but I don’t know what it was, but ultimately they pulled round pretty well in the end.
“Considering everything pretty good,” was Ellingworth’s summation of the day. “Could have been a lot worse if people crashed or punctured. I don’t think we had one flat tyre today to be honest, I don’t think. You take what you get there so all good…but I don’t actually know what happened.”
Good to know the chaos of the cobbles is equally as hard to follow whether you’re watching the race or running one of the teams in it.
Geraint Thomas explained after the stage that despite feeling sluggish at the start his legs felt good on the cobbles, getting better with each passing sector, and then the crash. Damage to his rear mech meant he couldn’t change gear at the end and so was in survival mode.
“Definitely could have been worse but definitely could have been a lot better as well,” said Thomas. “Which is the same story as with the TT. Main story is I don’t feel too bad injury-wise and the legs were feeling good, still plenty of stages to go.”