Cholet - Chris
Froome was booed by a section of the public on the starting ramp but
otherwise enjoyed a great day in the Tour de France team time-trial on
Monday where Sky were edged by four seconds by winners BMC.
Belgian team Quick Step came third at seven seconds but because
Fernando Gaviria was dropped along the route he failed to reclaim the
race leader's yellow jersey, which was instead claimed by BMC's Olympic
road race champion Greg van Avermaet.
"It's a great feeling and very good for the team. I have my chances
to win tomorrow too and also at the Roubaix," said Van Avermaet.
It was also a very satisfying day for Froome, the Kenyan-born Briton
ignoring some booing at the start line and making up some of the
valuable time he lost on Saturday's first stage.
Defending champion Froome lost four seconds to Richie Porte, but took
five seconds off British rival Adam Yates, eight seconds off world
champion Tom Dumoulin of Sunweb, 50 seconds off Colombia's Nairo
Quintana and was a less-than-expected 1:11 quicker than French
hope Romain Bardet.
While Sky's top placed rider is Geraint Thomas three seconds off the
lead, 2017 Giro winner Dumoulin is just 11 seconds down, but perhaps
Bardet is the man with the most to smile about at this stage.
"For God sake don't sell this as a two-horse race because it's not, not this year," a source close to Bardet told AFP.
"But boy we are so happy to get here without having had two minutes
stuck into us by Froome," he said of Bardet's 20 second deficit on the
Bardet had indeed cut a happy figure on the line after his AG2R team,
built for the mountains, came in 12th 1:15 behind BMC.
Bardet waited at the finish line to greet each one of the team-mates
he'd dropped in a mad final push for the line and hug them. "Our team is
our strength," said Bardet.
Porte's BMC team had been expected to make up for their disappointing first day when their Australian leader fell.
"There was way too much wind for me," said the slightly-built Porte.
"So taking four seconds off Chris (Froome of Sky) is good and it
looks like a minute off Romain Bardet at least," said the BMC leader.
"We were favourites and it was good to deliver.
"I still regret throwing away those 51 seconds on the first day, but there's a long way to go to Paris."
There was no surprises for Movistar's Quintana, who lost another
chunk of time to Froome, to whom he came second on the Tour twice.
"It's about what I expected, we thought we'd lose a bit to Froome and we lost a bit to Froome," said the dry-witted Quintana.
Froome put in an imperial
performance on Monday showing the kind of power in the saddle that has
led him to four previous Tour de France victories where he dominates the
time trials and defends his lead in the mountains.
"It was a huge challenge for the team, it's been incredible for us,"
said the 33-year-old Briton who was jeered when his name was announced
on the starting ramp.
"Our aim was to take the maximum time out of all our rivals," he insisted.
"But believe me, this was not an easy day."
His team principal Dave Brailsford was also looking cheerful and relaxed.
"In this kind of situation you have to focus on the process and not
the result. Make sure all the guys are right, forget the race and live
the moment," he said of how they tackled the challenge.
Asked if the Froome whistling was dying down, he said yes.
"It looks like people have just come out for a fun day," he said.
"Thankfully, because there are families here."
Results from the 3rd stage of the Tour de France, a 35.5km team time-trial around Cholet on Monday:
1. BMC 38min 46sec
2. Sky at 04sec
3. Quick-Step 07
4. Mitchelton 09
5. Sunweb 11
6. EF-Drapac 35
7. Bora 50
8. Astana 51
9. Katusha 52
10. Movistar 53
11. Bahrain 1:06
12. AG2R La Mondiale 1:15
13. Lotto NL 1:15
14. Trek 1:16
15. Emirates 1:38
16. Groupama-FDJ 1:42
17. Fortuneo-Samsic 1:46
18. Direct Energie 1:51
19. Lotto 1:52
20. Dimension Data 1:52
21. Wanty 2:24
22. Cofidis 3:23