Team Alpecin Fenix’ Mathieu van der Poel of Netherlands celebrates his overall leader yellow jersey on the podium at the end of the 5th stage of the 108th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, a 27 km time trial between Change and Laval, on Wednesday. LAVAL: Defending champion Tadej Pogacar fired out a defiant warning to would-be Tour de France title contenders by storming the individual time-trial on Wednesday while Mathieu van der Poel clung on to the overall lead after stage five. Van der Poel kept hold of his yellow jersey by just eight seconds while Ineos pair Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz lost more than a minute on Slovenia’s ever-improving Pogacar, who is now second in the overall standings. Ahead of the 27.2km time-trial, Pogacar described the stage as critical to his chances of defending the title he won in 2020 and the manner in which he raced Wednesday backed up that statement. Pogacar won last year’s Tour de France by overturning compatriot Primoz Roglic’s comfortable lead in a time-trial on the penultimate day, and here he appeared to do at least as well as that fateful day on the feted La Planche des Belles Filles slopes where he clinched the Tour on his rookie appearance. His time was 44sec faster than that of Roglic, who fell heavily on Monday, and 1min 18sec quicker than 2018 champion Thomas, who dislocated his shoulder before managing to pick himself up and finish the same crash-marred stage. Pogacar’s phenomenal ride didn’t quite give him the overall lead but it leaves him in the driving seat for the title, 1min 44sec ahead of Carapaz, with Roglic and Thomas 4 and 10sec further adrift respectively. Van der Poel had vowed to defend the yellow jersey, but this was only the second time he had raced a time-trial at the top level, and he reached beyond expectations to hold the lead on his debut Tour. Van der Poel will likely keep the overall lead a few days longer, with two flat stages to come. Another happy man was veteran Mark Cavendish, who kept hold of the green jersey for best sprinter.