Tour de France 2018: Greg van Avermaet in yellow after BMC edge Team Sky in Stage 3 TTT
Belgium's Greg van Avermaet took over the race lead after his BMC team put in a commanding performance to win the team time trial at Cholet ahead of Team Sky and Quick-Step Floors.
The BMC team of Australia’s Richie Porte completed an undulating 35.5km course through in La Vendee in a time of 38 minutes and 46 seconds to beat Chris Froome’s Sky by four seconds and the Quick-Step Floors team of Bob Jungels by seven seconds.
With both Porte and Froome entering the collective race against the clock 51 seconds down on most of their general classification rivals, the duo put themselves back into the picture as the likes of Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) and Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) all saw their early gains overturned on another hot and sunny day in north-west France.
Olympic champion Van Avermaet led the team home and took the yellow jersey from the shoulders of overnight leader Peter Sagan after the world champion was dropped by his Bora-Hansgrohe team as they finished 50 seconds down on the winners.
Van Avermaet is tied at the top of the general classification with his American team-mate Van Garderen, while Welshman Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) is in third place three seconds down.
Dutchman Dumoulin is the highest placed of the big GC favourites, the Giro d’Italia runner-up now trailing the race summit by 11 seconds.
Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran is tenth on GC at 35 seconds after his EF Education First-Drapac team set the sixth best time, 35 seconds down on winners BMC.
Landa and Valverde’s Movistar team set only the tenth best time some 53 seconds slower than BMC to see the Spanish duo’s lead slashed and the beleaguered Colombian Nairo Quintana fall further back in the standings.
Quintana, whose untimely mechanical in the opening stage on Saturday cost him dearly, is now 2’08” adrift after only three days of the 105th edition of the Grande Boucle.
Having crashed on both days over the weekend, Britain’s Yates bounced back thanks to Mitchelton-Scott’s solid performance. The 25-year-old is now one minute down but ahead of both Nibali and Bardet after their Ag2R-La Mondiale and Bahrain Merida teams could only set the eleventh and thirteenth best times respectively.
Meanwhile, French wildcard team Cofidis finished a distant last place a whopping three minutes and 23 seconds down on the winners.
RIHS REMEMBERED: Victory for BMC and a second career yellow jersey for Van Avermart was the perfect way for the Swiss-registered team to remember their late manager Andy Rihs, who passed away in April.
“It’s always something special to win a team time trial on the Tour and our guys are masters of it. I’m really happy to be part of it,” said Van Avermaet, who wore the maillot jaune for three days in 2016.
" Obviously it was a tough one but the team was fantastic today and the big, strong, tough guys did a fantastic job. It was a big goal to get the yellow jersey in the first week. I wore it one time [before] and it was incredible feeling to be in yellow, so I’m really happy to have it for a second time and I’m going to enjoy the feeling tomorrow. I’m going to thank my team-mates because without them it wouldn’t have happened."
For his part, Porte was pleased to have righted the wrongs of a tough Grand Depart in the Vendee region of north-west France.
“It was a tough one but the team was fantastic today,” the 33-year-old said. “The big strong guys did a really good job and it was the perfect team time trial.”
" It puts us right back in the game although obviously it would have nice not to have thrown 51 seconds away on the first stage. But it was good and now we can enjoy the moment with the stage win with this incredible bunch of guys. It’s a great feeling."
FROOME UPBEAT: The defending champion saw his team start strongly by setting the joint second fastest time with BMC at the first intermediate check – one second behind the early pace-setters Mitchelton-Scott, who were first down the ramp.
Welshman Luke Rowe and Dutchman Wout Poels were both distanced by the 20-kilometre marker as a combination of the heat, the hilly terrain and Sky’s blistering pace took its toll.
It was another Welshman, Thomas, who led Sky home to take the provisional lead – but a yellow jersey was not to be after BMC soon bettered their effort by four seconds.
“It felt good and the legs felt good,” Froome, the 33-year-old Giro champion, said after reviving his GC hopes following his crash on the opening day.
" Seeing that I haven’t raced since the Giro it felt good to open up today properly. The last two days have been really nervous racing – not necessarily physical but more mentally and staying in position. Today was the first time that we could really open up and for me the legs felt good. The rest of the guys did a really great job so we can be happy with that. It wasn’t good enough for the win but the boys can be happy."
COMING UP: The race enters Brittany on Tuesday with the 195km Stage 4 from La Baule to Sarzeau. A fourth-category climb 60km from the finish should provide a platform for a polka-dot push before the expected bunch sprint in the town where UCI president David Lappartient has been mayor for the last decade.
With Sagan having swapped his yellow jersey for the green jersey, we can expect the Slovakian Stage 2 winner to battle it out with Stage 1 winner Fernando Gaviria for the spoils.