Tadej Pogacar routs rivals in Tour de France time trial

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LAVAL, France — Defending champion Tadej Pogacar powered to victory in Wednesday’s time trial at the Tour de France to assert himself as the odds-on favorite at the three-week race.

Pogacar lagged 39 seconds behind leader Mathieu van der Poel at the start of Stage 5 in the western Mayenne region and erased a big chunk of the deficit to move into second place in the general classification.

The 22-year-old Slovenian mastered the technical 22.7-kilometer (14-mile) loop from Change to Laval to gain time on all other main contenders in an impressive display of power and technical skills.

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Van der Poel has limited abilities in high mountains and is not expected to remain in the mix once the race reaches the Alps later this week.

Pogacar unleashed his power on the long stretches of flat roads and did not lose his tempo on the hills scattered along the course.

Riding in an aerodynamic position, Pogacar perfectly negotiated the sharp curves of the technical finale and covered the route in 32 minutes, at an average speed of 51 kilometers per hour.

The UAE Team Emirates rider became the second-youngest winner of the Tour de France last year after snatching the yellow jersey in a high-drama time trial on the eve of the finish in Paris.

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Tadej Pogacar routs rivals in Tour de France time trial originally appeared on NBCSports.com