(Road Bike Action & AFP; Photo: Bettini)
BMC beat Sky by one second to win the 28km team time trial ninth stage of the Tour de France on Sunday but Chris Froome kept the race leader’s yellow jersey. Froome’s Sky had a five second advantage at the foot of the final 1.7km, 6.2 percent climb to the finish in Plumelec but Ireland’s Nicolas Roche cracked under the pace set by Welshman Geraint Thomas and his teammates had to slow down to wait for him. That gave the BMC team of Tejay Van Garderen, now second overall at 12sec, the chance to snatch the victory. Nairo Quintana’s Movistar were third at 4sec, Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo fourth at 28sec with reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana fifth at 35sec.
The battle between BMC and Sky was neck-and-neck for 20km with the two level at the first time check and then Sky ahead by 1sec at the second. But at the foot of the final climb they seemed to have taken a decisive advantage, only for Roche to crack. As the team’s time is counted when the fifth rider crosses the line and Sky were down to their final five, Froome dropped back to ride beside his struggling teammate to encourage him to the finish.
“I was pretty generous again in the second half of the course,” said a distraught Roche. “It’s true that G (Thomas) was really strong and that took me out of my comfort zone. I don’t have any words to explain my disappointment.”
Despite missing out on the stage win, it was another successful day for Froome, with only Van Garderen able to gain time on him, and that only a second. Contador dropped 27sec to the leader and is now fifth overall at 1min 03sec. Quintana is up to ninth at 1min 59sec and only gave up 3sec to Froome, a relative success for the Colombian specialist climber. But the big loser was Nibali who lost time for the second day in a row and is now 2min 24sec off the pace.
1. BMC 32min 15sec (average: 52.09 km/h)
2. Sky at 01sec.
3. Movistar 04
4. Tinkoff 28
5. Astana 35
6. IAM 38
7. Etixx 45
8. Lampre 48
9. Lotto NL 1:14
10. AG2R La Mondiale 1:24
11. Trek 1:25
12. Cannondale 1:29
13. Bora 1:31
14. FDJ 1:33
15. Lotto 1:36
16. Giant 1:37
17. Europcar 1:42
18. Bretagne-Seche 1:46
19. Katusha 1:53
20. MTN-Qhubeka 1:56
21. Cofidis 2:32
22. Orica 4:58
1. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 31hr 34min 12sec
2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) at 0:12sec
3. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) 0:27.
4. Peter Sagan (SVK/TIN) 0:38.
5. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 1min 03sec
6. Rigoberto Uran (COL/ETI) 1:18.
7. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 1:50.
8. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 1:52.
9. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 1:59.
10. Zdenek Stybar (CZE/ETI) 1:59.
13. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) 2:22.