Analysis from a crucial team time trial at the Tour de France
BMC take classy victory
The future of BMC Racing may be in serious doubt beyond this season, but if this is the last time we see the American team in Tour de France team time trial action then they produced a suitable swansong.
The two-time team time trial world champions have been astonishingly strong in the discipline for years, and delivered a lesson in pacing to be close to their rivals at the two time checks before finding a few more seconds in the final nine kilometres to win the stage.
That result was enough to move Greg Van Avermaet into the yellow jersey, Tejay van Garderen up to second place (coincidentally where he also was in GC after the Tour’s last team time trial in 2015), and help Richie Porte regain a lot of the ground that he lost after getting caught behind a crash on stage one.
If there’s any bad news for the team is that they will now have to work to defend the yellow jersey through the first week, although they should get plenty of help from the sprinters’ teams looking to profit on the flat stages.
Ideal day for Froome and Thomas
Having finished one second behind BMC in the Tour’s last team time trial three years ago, Team Sky this time managed to finish four seconds down with a strong performance that saw them shed strong riders such as Luke Rowe early on.
After Chris Froome lost 51 seconds on the opening day, the British team were in need of a good showing, and will be particularly happy with their leader’s form as Froome took huge turns including on the climb towards the second time check.
As was the case with Porte, Froome has now made up most of the time that he lost on day one and now in 18th place, 55 seconds behind Van Avermaet.
As for Geraint Thomas, the Welshman is now sitting pretty in third place, just three seconds down on Van Avermaet, and could move into yellow if he chases bonus seconds at the intermediate and bonus sprints. However whether he wants to do that or not is another matter.
Quintana in trouble as Movistar fall short
While BMC Racing, Team Sky, and Mitchelton-Scott all put in strong rides for their team leaders, Movistar – a strong team time trial outfit on their day – fell short with a time that was 54 seconds slower than BMC.
The Spanish team managed to drop some of their strongest rouleurs early on with Imanol Erviti and Daniele Bennati unable to hack the pace, eventually leaving just Marc Soler and Andrey Amador to ride alongside their triumvirate of team leaders.
For Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa, the time wasn’t actually too damaging, as the time they gained on stage one meant that they now sit in a huddle of GC contenders that also includes Froome, Porte, Adam Yates, and Jacob Fuglsang at around a minute off the lead.
However for Nairo Quintana it’s a different story, with the Colombian already down in 59th place at 2-08, and with a lot of work to do when we reach the mountains.
Bardet and Martin tumble down GC
Ag2r La Mondiale just about managed to hold things together to finish in 12th place, 1-15 behind BMC, meaning that Bardet now sits the same distance off the race lead.
However things were worse for UAE Team Emirates, who were never expected to produce a good time and found themselves in an even worse situation after Oliviero Troia, the strongest time triallist in the team, suffered a puncture early on.
In the end Martin’s team conceded 1-39 to BMC, meaning that the Irishman now sits a distant 1-39 off the yellow jersey and in a similar to position to the Critérium du Dauphiné where a weak team time trial cost him a shot at overall victory.
Survival for Craddock
One of the most memorable images of the first two days of the Tour de France was Lawson Craddock struggling to the finish of stage one with blood streaming down his face, a crash having left him with a broken scapula and requiring stitches to a wound above his left eye.
The American was always going to struggle in the team time trial, but managed to survive for a surprisingly long time as his EF Education First-Drapac team set a strong pace that would eventually see them finish in sixth place.
With a time cut of nearly 12 minutes Craddock was never really going to be in danger of being eliminated from the race, but will now look forward to a few easier days before taking on the Roubaix cobbles on Sunday.