Tour de France 2021 Stage 5 Preview - The Race Against the Clock

Rouleur previews stage five of the 2021 Tour de France. It’s a crucial stage for the GC, with a 27km time-trial on the cards.

Following a couple of sprint stages, the GC riders will need to be on top of their game on the Tour de France stage 5 time-trial. Minutes could be won and lost between Changé and Laval. The course is the longest time-trial prior to the first rest day at the Tour de France since 2012.

Mark Cavendish completed his comeback with a phenomenal sprint on stage four, where he won the 31st Tour de France stage of his career. Cavendish sprinted ahead of Nacer Bouhanni and Jasper Philipsen who were second and third respectively. Prior to the stage, Cavendish hadn't won a Tour de France stage since 2016, making his victory one of the most memorable moments in recent Tour de France memory.

Tour de France 2021 Guide


Tour de France 2021 Stage 5 profileStage 5 profile

Three kilometres separate the start and finish locations of the stage 5 time-trial, but the riders will instead take a 27.2 kilometre course, which is largely flat but also features some short hills. The two intermediate splits take place in Saint-Jean-sur-Mayenne and Bonchamp-les-Laval at kilometres 8.8 and 17.2.

Almost immediately after the rider’s leave the start ramp, they will rise uphill for 1.5 kilometres. The next seven kilometres or so are largely flat and will send the riders to the first time check.

Rolling terrain characterises the next 15km. With just over 2.2km left, the riders will enter the final short rise. The first 300m of the incline average just over 5%, but the hill levels off to a false flat. The final kilometres in Laval are technical with lots of corners until the finish. The road is narrow too, so the GC favourites must be careful and well prepared so they know exactly how to negotiate this section of the course.


Wout Van AertWout van Aert on the time-trial bike (Image credit: A.S.O./Alex Broadway)

Due to the length of the time-trial, we can expect a major reshuffling in the GC.

1. Mathieu van der Poel 
2. Julian Alaphilippe +0:08
3. Richard Carapaz +0:31
4. Wout van Aert +0:31
5. Wilco Kelderman +0:38
6. Tadej Pogacar +0:39
7. Enric Mas +0:40
8. Nairo Quintana +0:40
9. Pierre Latour +0:45
10. David Gaudu +0:52
18. Geraint Thomas +1:07
20. Primoz Roglic +1:35

GC standings following stage 4

Mathieu van der Poel enters the stage holding the yellow jersey. The Dutchman is the magician of the peloton, capable of producing outstanding, unexpected rides, but it would take a really special performance from him here to retain the yellow jersey. 

Julian Alaphilippe has won a Tour de France time-trial before and is just eight seconds behind Van der Poel — it's possible that the Frenchman could be back in the yellow jersey by the end of the stage. Notable riders that are slightly further back in the GC are Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogačar, who start 31 and 39 seconds behind Van der Poel respectively. Both will also have their eyes on yellow. Wilco Kelderman and Rigoberto Uran are two other well placed GC contenders that will hope to gain time over their competitors.

Primoz Roglic and Geraint Thomas have lost over a minute each, though as strong time-trialists, they'll both hope to move up the standings. Despite that, they have both hit the deck already so may not be at their very best level.

Wout Van Aert starts as the favourite for the stage. After a fairly quiet first couple of stages for the Belgian road champion, Van Aert said he would be focusing on the stage five time-trial rather than sprinting for stages three and four. Ahead of stage three, Van Aert said “Today and tomorrow I will try to save as much energy as possible to do the best time-trial possible.” Van Aert is one of the best on the TT bike in the world. Earlier in 2021, he defeated both Filippo Ganna and Stefan Kung over the 10-kilometre Tirreno-Adriatico time-trial.

Kung is the Swiss Champion, however, and is one of the primary stage favourites alongside Van Aert. He has won three time-trials this season already, but all his victories were on routes less than 15km in distance. 

Kasper Asgreen is a supreme time-trialist, and although Julian Alaphilippe won a time-trial in 2019 on a similar route, Asgreen could be Deceuninck-Quick Step’s best option. Asgreen will wear the Danish champions jersey after he defeated Mikkel Bjerg over a 48km race prior to the Tour de France.

Stefan Bissegger is one of the breakout riders of 2021 so far. The 22-year-old is proving himself as one of the best time-trialists in the WorldTour peloton. Bissegger won the 14km TT at Paris-Nice ahead of Primoz Roglic and Remi Cavagna. However, this will be the longest time-trial course he has tackled this season. 

Other riders with a chance of finishing near the top of the stage standings include Mikkel Bjerg, Brandon McNulty and Søren Kragh Andersen.

Notable Start Times

12:31 Chris Froome
12:52 Mikkel Bjerg
14:19 Stefan Bissegger
15:31 Stefan Kung
16:08 Kasper Asgreen
16:12 Primoz Roglic
16:16 Geraint Thomas
16:24 Rigoberto Uran
16:40 Tadej Pogacar
16:44 Wout van Aert
16:48 Julian Alaphilippe
16:50 Mathieu van der Poel

Read our full stage 6 preview


Wout van Aert has had a consistent if not unspectacular start to the Tour de France and finds himself 31 seconds behind in the GC. That won’t phase Van Aert though, who turned his attention to the time-trial early on. He is our pick to win stage 5, and such is his time-trialling prowess, we think he will move into the yellow jersey as well.

Cover image: Michael Steele/Getty Images

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