It was business almost as usual for Team BMC in Monday's stage 3 as they confirmed their status as the world's leading team time trial specialists to win the 35-km effort in Cholet. Richie Porte and his team-mates, five of which were already in the team who won a TTT on the Tour in 2015, clocked 38:46, to upstage pre-stage favorites Team Sky by four seconds. Third place went to Quick Step, who lost the stage and their yellow jersey chances by seven seconds. Peter Sagan, who was dropped by his Bora Hansgrohe team-mates, handed his yellow jersey to Greg Van Avermaet, who already led the Tour de France for three days in 2016, the year he also became Olympic champion.
Mitchelton-Scott set the pace
The eight riders of Mitchelton-Scott, winners of a similar stage in 2013 in Corsica, were the first to tackle the course at 3:10 pm. They were immediately followed by pre-stage favorites Team Sky. Their tactics were strikingly different as the Australian team seemed to spare Adam Yates and Mikel Nieve while the eight Sky riders took turns regularly. They were almost level on 14:12 and 14:13 at the first intermediate mark at kilometer 13. Movistar were just a second adrift at that stage but they faltered in the finale, to relinquish 49 seconds on Team Sky.
But specialists BMC were the team to beat and they showed why they had won six of the last ten major team time trials by being fastest at the second intermediate mark to finish on 38:46, with a four seconds lead over Team Sky.
BMC take the lead
"We have strong riders, they took care of me so it was not so hard for me and it was great to see such a big crowd. It's a good result but it's far from over. You saw what happened in stage 1 with my crash. There is more time to take back of the other contenders," said team leader Richie Porte who, like Chris Froome, had lost 51 seconds after a crash in stage 1.
Their victory, the fourth in a TTT this season, also meant Team Sky have yet to win a team time trial on the Tour, having finished second or third in the four such efforts they took part in.
The stage victory was settled at this stage, even though Tom Dumoulin's Team Sunweb also performed well, setting the 5th mark on 38:57, 11 seconds behind BMC. The suspense was also maintained by Team Quick Step, who challenged BMC until the very last kilometers with only Philippe Gilbert, Yves Lampaert, Julian Alaphilippe and Bob Jungels left. But they were seven seconds short of a stage win that might have handed Gilbert the yellow jersey.
As for Peter Sagan, he was dropped by his Bora-Hansgrohe team-mates in the last hill. As a result, the yellow jersey has now changed three times in three days, which only happened once in the last 25 years, in 2015.