In what was partly a dress rehearsal for the 35km team time trial on stage three of the Tour de France, Sky put in a brilliant ride to win by more than half a minute over pre-race favourites BMC Racing.
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Earlier in the day the surprise of the stage came from Ag2r La Mondiale, who put performance to limit the losses of Romain Bardet with a time of 38-03 to take an early lead, while world team time trial champions Team Sunweb – albeit without any of their best time triallists and down to five riders after early abandons – finished in a time of 39-53 which would see them finish last on the day.
Ag2r La Mondiale’s time withstood the challenges of Astana and Bahrain-Merida (with Vincenzo Nibali in their ranks), but fell to the effort of Trek-Segafredo who finished the 35km test just three seconds quicker.
However Trek-Segafredo’s time did not last for long with Quick-Step Floors going a whopping 25 seconds faster, before the arrival of BMC Racing, who had been fastest at each of the intermediate time checks and duly knocked another 24 seconds off the fastest time of the day.
The last two teams on the course were Team Sky and Mitchelton-Scott, and by the first time check it was clear that the former were on for a great ride as they covered the first 14km 14 seconds faster than BMC Racing.
That advantage only got bigger over the rest of the course, rising to 22 seconds at the second time check after 24.5km and 37 seocnds by the finish.
However the Mitchelton-Scott weren’t looking quite so fast, with the yellow jersey of Daryl Impey having to put in some huge turns at the front to help his team-mates towards the line.
Despite those efforts, the Australian team could not do enough to keep Impey in the race lead, eventually finishing in fourth place more than a minute down on Team Sky.
The result means that after one day in standard Team Sky kit, Michal Kwiatkowski is back in the yellow jersey, with Gianni Moscon, Jonathan Castroviejo, and Geraint Thomas in second, third, and fourth overall respectively heading into four back-to-back summit finishes.
Critérium du Dauphiné stage three: Pont-de-Vaux to Louhans-Chateaurenard, 35km (TTT)
1. Team Sky (GBr), in 36-33
2. BMC Racing (USA), at 37 secs
3. Lotto Soudal (Bel), at 53 secs
4. Mitchelton-Scott (Aus), at 56 secs
5. Quick-Step Floors (Bel), at 1-02
6. Trek-Segafredo (USA), at 1-27
7. AG2R La Mondiale (Fra), at 1-30
8. Movistar (Esp), at 1-31
9. LottoNl-Jumbo (Ned), at 1-33
10. Groupama-FDJ (Fra), at 1-34
General classification after stage three
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, in 9-28-21
2 Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky, at 3 secs
3 Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp) Team Sky, at 9 secs
4 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 21 secs
5 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing, at 48 secs
6 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing, at 52 secs
7 Joey Rosskopf (USA) BMC Racing, at 53 secs
8 Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott, at 54 secs
9 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 1-01
10 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, at 1-08