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Hindley takes Tour de France lead as Pogacar suffers in Pyrenees

Australian Jai Hindley crossed the line alone to win stage five of the Tour de France on Wednesday to take the overall leader’s yellow jersey as defending champion Jonas Vingegaard won a tactical battle with key rival Tadej Pogacar.

Hindley’s feat however was overshadowed by Vingegaard’s show of class as the Dane pulled off a major coup on the final mountain to carve a 53-second advantage over Pogacar in the overall standings.

The anticipated duel between the pair has been the main focus on the Tour so far, but now Bora-Hansgrohe rider Hindley, the 2022 Giro d’Italia winner, has stolen some of that thunder.

After joining an early escape as the peloton left Pau, the gateway to the Pyrenees, at frantic speed, Hindley eventually shook off his breakaway rivals on the final Col de Marie Blanque climb.

At the village of Laruns the 27-year-old raised his arms to the sky and finished 32 seconds ahead of Italy’s Giulio Ciccone and Austrian Felix Gall with Vingegaard fifth at 34sec.

Ciccone climbed to third in the overall with his second place. The Italian held the yellow jersey briefly in 2019 after a breakaway on the Planche des Belles Filles climb.

The stage winner said he had been ready should an opportunity arise on this first relatively benign foray into the mountains.

“I’m here for the overall win and the aim was to put as much time as possible into the others,” said Hindley.

“It has been a dream since I was six years old but I never thought I’d find myself in the yellow jersey,” he said.

“It was chaotic behind with different teams riding with various aims. I got the win and the lead so I’m delighted, it’s going to be a crazy bike race.”

Jumbo tactical lesson

Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma stunned the UAE Team when Wout Van Aert dropped back from an early break and led Vingegaard uphill with an impressive 500m pull.

Jumbo climber Sepp Kuss then took the relay until he too peeled away before Vingegaard broke free and put the hammer down over the remaining 15km to the finish line.

Vingegaard expressed surprise at how Pogacar struggled.

“On paper this didn’t look like it was going to be a good day for me, but on the last climb I knew I had the legs,” said the defending champion.

“I was surprised Pogacar didn’t manage to follow, even if I was doing it to test him.”

Van Aert was awarded the day’s combativity prize.

“It was a really hard day,” admitted Van Aert, one of the stars of the peloton with three stage wins in last year’s race.

“This puts pressure on them (Team UAE),” he said. “Hindley and Ciccone got away from us, but I was holding back to help Jonas,” he explained.

Meanwhile UAE Team rider Pogacar, the 2020 and 2021 champion, was left isolated as overnight leader Adam Yates appeared unable to help in the chase.

“It’s not lost yet,” said Pogacar, who broke a wrist in April and missed some key training time in the saddle.

“He (Vingegaard) was much faster on that climb. He was really strong and there was just nothing you can do,” he said.

“It’s a blow but it’s only the first mountain stage, we shall keep fighting and try to win back time.”

On Thursday, trademark Tour climbs Col d’Aspin and Col du Tourmalet will mark out stage six as the toughest test so far with further tremors expected on the second mountain day over 145km from Tarbes to Cauterets-Cambasque.

But those two ascents make only 30km and are only part of the story with a 16km slog to a summit finish coming after an epic descent from the 2,115-metre altitude Tourmalet.