TOUR de FRANCE OFF AND CYCLING, GREG VAN AVERMAET WEARING THE YELLOW JERSEY

Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey. Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images

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 

Team Sky with Britain’s Chris Froome in second position strains during the third stage of the Tour de France on Monday. Photograph: Christophe Ena/A

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.

The only individual time trial of the race comes in the penultimate stage, over a 31-kilometer (19-mile) route from Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle to Espelette in the Basque country. The race ends in Paris after more than 2,000 miles. By 

THE OFFICIAL ROUTE FOR THE RACE

The route

Running from Saturday July 7th to Sunday July 29th 2018, the 105th Tour de France will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,351 kilometres.

  • 8 flat stages
  • 5 hilly stages
  • 6 mountain stages and 3 altitude finishes (La Rosière, Alpe d’Huez, Saint-Lary-Soulan col du Portet)
  • 1 individual time-trial
  • 1 team time-trial
  • 2 rest days

The 2018 Tour de France will include a total of 26 mountain climbs or hills and altitude finishes ranked in second, first of HC class.

The geographic distribution will be as follows:

  • 12 in the Alps
  • 4 in the Massif central
  • 10 in the Pyrenees

On the last three editions of the race, the total was as follows:
25 in 2015, 28 in 2016 et 23 in 2017.

Distinctive aspects of the race

ALMOST 100 % FRENCH
Except for a short visit of around 15 kilometres in Spain during stage 16 between Carcassonne and Bagnères-de-Luchon, the 105th Tour de France will never go out of the borders of France. 36“départements” will be travelled through and the Basque country that hadn’t been visited since 2006 will once again be on the map of the Tour.

THE COBBLES RETURN
During the 9th stage, Arras > Roubaix, there will be 21.7 kilometres of cobbled roads. The riders will take on a total of 15 sectors with lengths varying from 500m to 2.7 kilometres.

TIME-TRIALS: TTT AND ITT
Like it was the case last summer in Marseille, the winner of the 105th edition should be crowned after the 20th and penultimate stage, a time-trial between Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle and Espelette on a distance of 31 kilometres. After a three-year absence, a team time-trial of 35 kilometres will also be on the menu during stage 3 in Cholet.

176 AT THE START
Based on a decision taken by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), each one of the 22 teams taking part in the Tour will, in 2018, be formed of 8 riders. There will therefore be a total of 176 riders present at the Grand Départ in Vendée Pays de la Loire.

3, 2, 1 BONUS …
It’ll be an innovation: from the Grand Départ until and including the 9th stage, 3, 2 and 1 bonus seconds will be awarded to the first three who reach a specific kilometre of the course determined in advance. It will have no incidence however on the points classification.

… AND 10, 6, 4 EXTRA BONUS
More conventional: 10, 6 and 4 bonus seconds will be taken off the overall times of the first three of each normal stage of the Tour (except for time-trials).

There will be 9 locations or stage cities visited for the first time out of 39:

  • Fontenay-le-Comte (finish of stage 1)
  • Mouilleron-Saint-Germain (start of stage 2)
  • Sarzeau (finish of stage 4)
  • Dreux (start of stage 8)
  • La Rosière (finish of stage 11)
  • Trie-sur-Baïse (start of stage 18)
  • Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle (start of stage 20)
  • Espelette (finish of stage 20)
  • Houilles (start of stage 21)

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