Chris Froome began the process of steadily eroding the time lost in Saturday’s opening stage of the Tour after Team Sky finished second here in the first major test, the 35.5km team time trial.
“We can be pretty happy,” he said. “We gave it everything we had and it all went pretty much to plan. You can never tell who is going to be on a good day or not but all in all it worked out well for us.
“Seeing as I haven’t raced since the Giro it was nice to open up a bit. The last couple of days were a little nervy and not necessarily physically, but more mentally. Today was the first day that we could open up properly.”
Froome described it as reassuring that his team had been able to take back some time on his key rivals. “It would have been nice not to have lost it in the first place,” he said. “But there will be a lot more time lost throughout the general classification group [of overall contenders] before we hit the mountains. One day you gain, one day you lose. That’s the nature of the game.”
Among the big losers in Monday’s collective effort were Vincenzo Nibali and Romain Bardet, whose advantages they held on Team Sky’s leader were wiped out. Another big loser was Mark Cavendish’s Dimension Data team, whose disastrous start to the Tour continued when they finished third-last.
Sky’s ride was not enough to lift Froome’s teammate Geraint Thomas into the yellow jersey, with the Welshman losing out to BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet, winner of the men’s road race at the Rio Olympics Games, by three seconds. Van Avermaet’s teammate Richie Porte, one of the pre-race favourites who also lost time on Saturday, is now, like Froome, clawing his way back up the standings. By Jeremy Whittle
Chris Froome’s Team Sky came up four seconds short of winning the team time trial in the third stage of the Tour de France on Monday, as Greg Van Avermaet of victorious BMC claimed the yellow jersey.
BMC, led by Australian hope Richie Porte, clocked 38 minutes, 46 seconds over the 35.5-kilometer (22-mile) route that began and ended in Cholet near the Atlantic coast.
Sky finished second and Quick-Step Floors came third, seven seconds behind. World champion Sunweb featuring Tom Dumoulin finished fifth, 11 seconds back.
Peter Sagan, who led the tour after winning Stage 2, was dropped by his Bora Hansgrohe teammates and fell to 80th overall, three minutes behind.
Van Avermaet, a Belgian who excels at single-day classics, isn’t a threat for the overall title of the 21-stage race, but he could keep the lead through the cobblestoned Stage 9 ending in Roubaix.
Defending Tour champion Froome was left 55 seconds behind in the overall standings with another week of nervy rolling stages before hitting the Alps.
“It’s a good time,” said Froome, who dropped 51 seconds following a crash in Stage 1. “There are a lot of other good teams. As I’ve said from the start, the legs are good. It was a good test for us and the team. I’m very happy with the other riders.”
Froome is aiming to join Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain as the only riders to win the Tour five times.
Van Avermaet earned the yellow jersey by leading BMC over the line, just ahead of American teammate Tejay van Garderen, who moved up to second overall, with the same time as Van Avermaet.
Geraint Thomas of Sky was third overall, three seconds behind.
Among the overall favorites, Dumoulin was seventh (11 seconds behind); last year’s runner-up, Rigoberto Uran, was 10th (:35); Porte was 14th (:51); Movistar teammates Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa were 17th (:53); Froome was 18th (:55), Adam Yates was 20th (1:00); and 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali was 22nd (1:06).
The Tour heads into the cycling hotbed of Brittany on Tuesday for Stage 4, a mostly flat 195-kilometer (121-mile) leg from La Baule to Sarzeau that starts and ends on the Atlantic coast.