Chris Froome tightens his grip on Tour de France yellow jersey
Sky’s second place finish in team time trial widens gap to English man’s main rivals
Dan Martin’s Cannondale Garmin team in action during the team time trial between Vannes and Plumelec. Photograph: Sebastien Nogier/EPA
“Personally, it’s quite difficult for me,” said Roche. “This was a massive opportunity for me for a stage win. Over the last few Tours I’ve been riding as a domestique and winning a TTT is something very particular, something you work at. There’s no luck, it’s all about sticking together and being there. It’s something that I really dreamed of, so it’s a bit of a tough one. But looking at the bigger picture, Froomey is in top shape, we kept the jersey, we’re in contention and we’re really ready to be in the mountains now.”
Having put down a significant marker in last month’s Critérium du Dauphiné the BMC team of Tejay van Garderen were again triumphant on a day when they had made no secret of their hopes of getting their leader into the maillot jaune. It was not to be: on the race’s first rest day Froome remains 12 seconds clear of the American. Crucially Froome also put further time into his fellow Fab Four members Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana.
“Those guys have that tag, the Fab Four, which is getting a little irritating hearing that,” said Van Garderen, the disgruntled fifth Beatle. “I’m not offended not to be named in that. All those guys in the Fab Four have won Grand Tours. I’ve had a couple of good top fives in the Tour but I’m yet to finish on the podium or win one.”
Team time trials are usually held on stage four or five of Grand Tours; UCI rules decree they “shall take place during the first third of the race” in order to give teams as fair a chance as possible of fielding a full-strength line-up in a discipline where the time of the fifth man to cross the finishing line is the one recorded.
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Orica GreenEdge suffered most from the anomalous scheduling having lost Michael Albasini, Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey to injury in the opening week while their Tour debutant, Michael Matthews, struggles on with damaged ribs that continue to restrict his ability to breathe. He was nursed through this stage by his remaining team-mates without having to do a tow in front.
Of the big-budget big-hitters Nibali’s Astana team were first out and set an early clubhouse lead of 32min 30sec that was quickly beaten by Quintana’s Movistar outfit, who finished 11 seconds faster. All eyes promptly turned to Tinkoff Saxo, BMC and Sky, the teams of Contador, Van Garderen and Froome respectively, who were last out on the road in that order.
On a course that finished with a tough climb up the 1.7km Côte de Cadoudal, Contador came off worst of the trio; his Tinkoff-Saxo team finished 28 seconds behind the eventual winners. BMC posted a time of 32min 15sec, which Sky only just failed to match. Guardian Service