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Mathieu van der Poel resigned to losing Tour de France lead in stage 5 time trial

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) congratulates Mark Cavendish after stage 4 of the Tour de France
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) congratulates Mark Cavendish after stage 4 of the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) enjoyed his second day in the Tour de France yellow jersey, riding into Fougéres in 12th place behind stage winner Mark Cavendish to keep the race lead going into Wednesday's individual time trial. 

The Dutch rider admitted, however, that the 27.2km test from Changé to Laval might be the end of his journey in the maillot jaune.

"It will be difficult for me, we have to be realistic about that," Van der Poel said. "I don't train much on it [the time trial bike], but will do everything I can to keep the jersey."

Van der Poel has rarely had to pour his efforts into an individual time trial to defend a race lead, although in 2019 he used a 14.4km test in the Tour of Britain to snatch the race lead back from Matteo Trentin en route to winning the overall race. 

In Laval, he faces pressure from Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep), who is just eight seconds behind in the overall, and Tour de Suisse winner Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) at 31 seconds.

Van Aert, winner of three Tour de France stages, was en route to a stage win in the 2019 edition when he caught the barricades and crashed out. The Belgian is on every pundit's list of riders most likely to assume the yellow jersey on stage 5.

"I hope to be able to go for the stage win. Then the rest will eventually follow," Van Aert said. "I am half a minute behind Mathieu. But there are still a lot of good riders in my area in the standings. I hope it's doable. But again, I want to do the best possible time trial. Then we'll see where we end up."