2013 champion says his team has what it takes to defend the yellow jersey, and names BMC's Tejay van Garderen as his principal rival heading into to the Tour's first rest day

Chris Froome says he was never afraid, but he is still hugely relieved to emerge in a strong position from today’s team time trial in the Tour de France. He lost one second to BMC’s Tejay van Garderen, but put time into the rest of his rivals in Plumelec.

Over the 28 kilometres, he maintained his yellow jersey in style. Sky finished a close second place, back by one second, to BMC Racing. The result puts Froome in control of the Tour ahead of tomorrow’s rest day and the mountains to come, leading with 12 seconds over American van Garderen.

“This stage was big objective for us,” Froome said.

“It’s unbelievable. We gave it all, everything we had. I’m excited to be in yellow still, especially after what happened last year. I was never afraid of the others, but I just didn’t want to lose time to them.”

Team Sky on stage nine of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

Team Sky on stage nine of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

BMC Racing, reigning world champions, took the stage victory in a time of 32-15 with an average of 52.09kph. With Sky in second place, however, Froome reinforced his lead on the other big stars. He gained four seconds on Nairo Quintana (Movistar), 28 on Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and 35 on Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

>>> Chris Froome retains Tour de France lead as BMC win team time trial

Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte, Leopold König and Nicolas Roche rode with Froome into the final uphill kilometre of the time trial. Roche may have cost the team the stage when he suffered in the last metres and caused his team-mates to ease up.

Nevertheless, the performance was hugely impressive considering that in the Critérium du Dauphiné, Sky lost 35 seconds to BMC and 31 to Astana.

Now Froome will head to Tuesday’s stage, the first high-mountain summit finish of 2015, knowing that the yellow jersey is his to protect.

“Right now, my biggest rival is Tejay. It’s not for me to attack the others, but we have a very good team to defend this jersey,” Froome explained.

“Am I as strong as two years ago? I like to think so, but of course, I also have two years’ more experience. Maybe that will help.”

Van Garderen explained that the team was on the edge waiting to see if they could hold off Sky. He said, “It gives me a lot of morale ahead of the mountain stages.”

Team BMC on their way to victory on stage nine of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

Team BMC on their way to victory on stage nine of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

Having twice finished fifth in the Tour, Van Garderen acknowledged that the podium, and the win, would be a “tall order”.

“First we have to get through the Pyrenees. The Pyrenees are going to be the test to see who can actually win the Tour. The Alps are going to show us who has the stamina to make it,” he said.

“The way I’ve been climbing in the Dauphiné compared to Froome, I feel that I’m close — but we are not going to be able to tell until the third week if I can hold it.”