• Team Sky beaten by one second from Vannes to Plumelec
• Contador, Nibali and Quintana all lose time to Froome

Chris Froome remains in the yellow jersey but the inability of Nicolas Roche to stay in touch with his team-mates in the closing metres of the team time trial cost Team Sky the stage win by the most slender of margins: one second. It was rounded up from 0.62sec, BMC’s actual margin of victory over the 28km course. Ouch.

“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.”
Tour de France, stages eight and nine – in pictures
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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.

Including rest days this year’s Tour de France is already nine days into a total of 23, on the ninth stage of 21 in an event where 40% of the total distance has already been completed. No matter which way you look at it this was a clear case of world cycling’s governing body ignoring its own guidelines.

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.

Truth be told, the Australian team had no complaints about misfortune for which little or no legislation could realistically have been made. They lost a third of their team to a crash that took place on stage three and treated a time trial they originally had high hopes of winning like a Sunday afternoon countryside spin, finishing just shy of five minutes behind the winners.

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.

With Froome, Geraint Thomas, Leopold König, Richie Porte, Wouter Poels and Roche tasked with closing out the stage after Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe had exhausted themselves on the flat, Poels hoisted the white flag at the bottom of the ascent and, of the remaining quintet, Roche was found ever so slightly wanting in the closing metres.

“We really can’t be too disappointed with that,” said Froome. “For everyone’s morale it would’ve been fantastic to have been able to get the stage win today, but more importantly we’ve kept the yellow jersey, we’ve put time into most of our rivals. We’ve got to be happy with that.

“It’s one thing not to lose any time to your rivals, but to actually gain quite substantial amounts on quite a lot of contenders – it’s put us in a fantastic position. Some other rivals – Nibali, Quintana – they’ve both lost quite a substantial amount of time already so the pressure’s definitely on them to attack once we go into the mountains,” said Froome. “It’s for the other guys to get the yellow jersey from me now.”

Courtesy of theguardian.com


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