BMC Racing started the day hoping to ride GC contender Tejay Van Garderen into the yellow jersey, but were denied by a rampant Team Sky who lost out on the stage victory by less than 1″.
The team time trial from Vannes to Plumelec included plenty of climbing although there were no classified climbs, meaning that the usual suspects in team time trials were under pressure to perform.
Usual favourites Orica-GreenEdge were the first to go but with only six riders still in the race they rode at a steady pace to ensure that Michael Matthews made the time cut. In the end they finished almost 5′ down on the winning time but all made it to the rest day.
Lampre-Merida were one team that went all out for the stage win, with many teams focusing on getting all riders across the line instead of competing for the stage. Lampre set a time of 33’03” and they were the team that stayed in the leaders place for a little while until IAM Cycling.
The Swiss outfit rode well and finished under 33′ with a time of 32’53” to take the leaders position from Lampre. IAM’s time stood for a while, beating former world champions Etixx-QuickStep by 7″ although Etixx were restricted by being without time trial specialist Tony Martin.
Astana’s ride was strong but not strong enough as they lost two men early on in the stage leaving just seven riders to compete for the team’s time. They still managed to topple IAM Cycling, beating them by 3″ to set a target of 32’50”. With GC rival teams Movistar, Team Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo still to go as well as world champions BMC though it was clear this time would not stand until the end.
Movistar put in a exceptional ride with the only blip being that the team split into three small groups on the climb. They managed to regroup towards the finish though and beat Astana’s time by 31″ despite being slower than them at the first time check. Significantly Nairo Quintana was one of the five riders who stopped the clock with Movistar, gaining him some time on Astana rival Nibali.
Movistar’s time stood as the time to beat as Tinkoff-Saxo failed to topple them from the top spot, despite long pulls from Peter Sagan and Alberto Contador. Although Tinkoff-Saxo were 6″ ahead of Movistar at the first time check, by the second they were 13″ behind the Spanish team and ended up finishing 24″ down with Contador also losing time to Quintana, but gaining 7″ on Nibali.
As BMC began their run it was up to either them or Team Sky to take the stage win, with BMC aiming to beat Sky by more than 13″ to put Tejay Van Garderen into the maillot jaune.
At the first time check BMC were faster than Tinkoff-Saxo by 7″ and continued to improve their margin, with an advantage of 15″ on the Russian team at the second time check. BMC were also 3″ faster than Movistar at the second time check – the first team to do so.
BMC stopped the clock at 32’15” – 4″ faster than Movistar – as Team Sky were underway and BMC faced an anxious wait to see if they had won the stage and the yellow jersey. Team Sky performed well and hit the first time check a few hundreths of a second slower than BMC, an indicator of just how close it was going to be.
At the second time check Team Sky were 1″ faster than BMC and looked on course to take the stage, but after losing a few riders along the way the final climb was their undoing. Nicholas Roche was the fifth man and in the last kilometer he really struggled to keep up with the team, with them having to ease the pace to allow him back on to finish with the required five riders. In the end this was what kept them from winning the stage as the finished 0.77 seconds behind BMC to give them the stage but to keep Froome in the yellow jersey.
Froome would definitely have been the happiest of the GC contenders having put time into all of his rivals – 17″ on Contador, 22″ on Nibali and 4″ on Quintana – but Quintana had just as much reason to be pleased with his day’s work having put time into both Contador and Nibali.
The races resumes on Tuesday 14th July with the first mountain stage: 167.5km from Tarbes to La Pierre-Saint-Martin.