Wilco Kelderman points to his elbow. Just under a white bandage he presses on his arm there. “That doesn’t hurt. Fortunately.” It is the place where Kelderman will have to lean for about 32 minutes when he takes his aerodynamic position on the time trial bike.
This Wednesday is the fifth stage of the Tour de France, a time trial over 27.2 kilometers from Changé to Laval – the first battle in the battle for the yellow jersey. After the hectic first days of the Tour, we will now see who, stripped of bad luck or luck, has the best legs and can start the first mountain stages later this week with a good classification.
For speed riders like the Slovenian Primoz Roglic and the Australian Richie Porte it is an excellent opportunity to make up for lost time; an opportunity for Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz or Slovenian Tadej Pogacar to increase the current, small lead.
Wilco Kelderman is fifth, just 38 seconds from jersey wearer Mathieu van der Poel. And if you include previous results, then on paper he is the best time trialist at the top of the standings. He’s looking forward to it, says Kelderman. “I have explored both time trials in advance, and this is one that suits me well. It keeps going up and down, I like that.”
Fit and in shape
The Bora rider looks relaxed in this Tour. Gone are the injuries that have plagued him so many times in his career. Kelderman is fit and in shape, finishing in the top five in the first tricky stages in the opening weekend. Laughing, he gives interviews in the mixed zone. “It’s going well, I feel good. With my new team I had influence on my own planning in the run-up to the Tour, what I would like and how. That gives confidence.”
He also attributes his good mood to the relaxed atmosphere at Bora-hansgrohe, for which he has been driving since this year. “It is goal-oriented, but not very pushy. And I just have the right people around me.”
Kelderman does not want to think about the yellow jersey yet. He dodges the question twice. “Mwaaa”, is the sound he produces first. The second time he refers to the Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe and the Belgian Wout van Aert, two riders who are ahead of him in the general classification and who have also won time trials. Kelderman sees them as his biggest competitors.
Saved for the time trial
Alaphilippe and Van Aert also want to take the yellow on Wednesday by riding a good time trial, they say. Alaphilippe, currently second in the general classification, has explored the time trial twice by car. “I am very motivated,” he said on Tuesday. “This may be my last chance to get the yellow, so I’m going to do everything I can.”
Van Aert has spared himself in the bunch sprints in the past two days to be as fit as possible at the start in Changé. Although things didn’t go quite according to plan in the chaotic third stage, in which he had to push hard to not lose time after falling behind due to a crash. “The preparation did not go as well as planned,” says Van Aert. On the other hand: “Julian has also driven through that final and the men behind me have all been on the ground, so it is not ideal for anyone.”
Kelderman was also on the ground in the first leg after a spectator with a cardboard sign caused a massive crash. He suffered a chafed and bruised elbow – hence the bandage. The joint is still quite stiff, Kelderman says. “If I stretch it, it hurts.” But will it play tricks on him in the time trial? “I hope I can lean on it well and the pain is not too bad.” At least the legs are good, he says. “So when I’m on the bike, the focus is on that. Then you forget the pain.”