Tour de France: Team Sky finish second in 35.5km team time trial
Chris Froome describes it as reassuring that Sky has been able to take back some time
Bora Hansgrohe team riders Peter Sagan of Slovakia (left) and Macus Burghardt of Germany during the 35.5km team time trial in Stage Three of the Tour de France. Photograph: EPA/Yoan Valat
“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 lost 51 seconds on the Tour’s opening day after he tumbled into a field close to the end of the Stage One finish in Fontenay-le-Comte. “The Tour didn’t start too well but that’s bike racing. Thankfully it was a soft landing in a field. No injuries.”
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. 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.
“Throwing away time like that hurts, but a lot of other big favourites were in the same boat,” Porte said. “It’s nice to be back on a level playing field. As Saturday showed, you can lose time anywhere.
“It’s going to be hectic the next few days. Stages five and six are nasty, and there’s potential for danger there, everywhere. The stage in Finistère [from Brest to Mûr-de-Bretagne] can really turn the race upside down.”
For Thomas, who wore the yellow jersey during last year’s Tour, it was a painful near miss. “I’m a bit disappointed not to win. We were there or thereabouts. There was lots of wind, lots of changes of direction, up and down. You’ve got to ride it really well as a team and we did that. It’s just always disappointing not to win when it’s so close.”
Thomas said that he had been so wrapped up in the team’s performances that he had barely thought about his personal ambitions. “You probably won’t believe me but I didn’t think about it. It was all about trying to win the stage. The jersey would have been a nice bonus on top. We just wanted to get that stage.
“We’ve been close in the past in Tour team time trials and we were close but not quite quick enough.”
While Froome and Porte prepare to lock horns in the coming week, Lawson Craddock of the Education First team is hoping merely to hang on. Craddock, who also crashed on the opening stage, is riding through the pain of a broken scapula and a left eye that is almost closed. He clung on doggedly to his team’s slipstream. “The pain was more manageable today, but then it was a 40-minute effort compared with a four-hour effort.”
Having said on Sunday that he was taking the race minute by minute, Craddock was asked if he was now taking it stage by stage.
“No,” he said. “Maybe 90 seconds by 90 seconds.”