Sunday July 12
Vannes Team Time Trial
28km - 434m elevation
1st – BMC Racing Team
2nd – Team Sky
3rd – Movistar
General Classification – Chris Froome, Team Sky
King of the Mountains – Daniel Teklehaimanot, MTB-Qhubeka p/b Samsung
Sprint Competition – Peter Sagan, Tinkoff - Saxo
Best Young Rider –Peter Sagan, Tinkoff - Saxo
Team Competition - BMC Racing Team
Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali were the big losers from today's stage. Both men giving up large chunks of time to the other GC contenders. Meanwhile BMC Racing Team and Team Sky road flawless races, and showed how close this tour is going to be, finishing 0.6 seconds apart from each other.
The relatively short Team Time Trial was lumpy to say the least and finished with a 1.7km climb with an average gradient of 6.2%, that Richie Porte described as 'excruciating'. Teams went off in reverse order, aside from Team Sky who went last as they held the yellow jersey.
Orica-GreenEDGE started proceedings and prior to the start of the Tour, would have earmarked this stage as a potential win. Unfortunately for the team a heartbreaking first week losing Gerrans, Albasini and Impey meant they would just be looking to complete the stage within the time cut off. Michael Matthews was still suffering the effects of two cracked ribs, resulting in a very conservative approach from the team, going through the 10km time check with an average speed of 46.4kph and finishing with an average speed of 45.1kph. Compare that speed to their winning effort in 2013 which was 57.8kph, and you get a sense of how much the team were hurting. Michael Matthews later telling French television, "We had to take it as another rest day".
Lotto Soudal were another team that was hurting, Aussie Ironman Adam Hansen forced to ride his road bike instead of a time trial bike because of his dislocated AC joint from Stage 2.
The technical start to the stage had the early teams hovering around the 50kph mark at the 10km time check. Lampre - Merida the early pace setters averaging 53.7kph.
Once the teams were flowing and into their rhythm the pace over the second third of the stage increased dramatically. Lampre - Merida carrying through their strong start, increasing their average speed to 57.5kph by the 21.5km time check. They were also the first team to finish the stage with an average speed over 50kph, coming in with a time of 33:03.
Astana Pro Team were the first big team to take off, and although they set a new best time at the 10km mark, they lost two riders in the process. At the 21.5km time check they had brought down the best time to 22:12 at an average of 58.1kph and continued to power towards the best time at the finish. Their efforts had reduced the team to five riders on the final hill, and aside from Nibali, the team was really struggling to the line. They set the best time of the day at 32:49 with an average speed of 51.2kph, but faded badly over the final few kilometres and would go on to lose over 30 seconds to the top three teams.
The Movistar team were stacked with three National Time Trial Champions and were looking to do a great ride for their man Nairo Quintana, who was in 16th position and 1:56 down on Chris Froome. They made a cautious start, 4 seconds down on Astana at the 10km time check but turned that around with the new best time at the 21.5km time check at 21:54 at an average speed of 58.9kph. They then imploded for a short period of time, split to pieces on a simple climb, riders at the back thrashing their arms about in an attempt to slow the riders up front down and stay together. Five riders were left on the final climb, and they all looked strong, gaining more time on Astana Pro Team, finishing with a new best time of 32:19, averaging 52.0kph. The time would earn them a podium spot and help Quintana gain time on Contador and Nibali.
Tinkoff - Saxo had two thoughts going into the TTT today. Number one as always was to keep Alberto Contador in a good position, but with Peter Sagan only 11 seconds off the yellow jersey, they could also move into the overall lead with a good ride. The team started well, best time at the 10km mark averaging 54.5kph. They lost their way slightly through the middle stages, hitting the 21.5km time check 13 seconds down on Movistar, but with all their team still remaining. The final two kilometres proved to be the too much for Tinkoff - Saxo. Despite still having six riders on the final climb they continued to lose time and finished 24 seconds off Movistar, 27 seconds off Team Sky and 28 off BMC Racing Team. Alberto Contador not losing a huge amount of time, but trying to gain a minute on Chris Froome in the mountains may prove to be too much.
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The reigning World TTT Champion, BMC Racing Team were the first team to go inside of 11 minutes at the 10km mark, throwing down the challenge to Team Sky who were last to leave. The team were riding a flawless race, tight sequence, all riders still in tact and ticking off the best time at the 21.5km time check averaging an incredible 59kph. The aggressive start from BMC Racing Team seemed to hurt them in the latter stages of the race. They too were left with five riders at the finish, but as with so many other teams, struggled up the final 2 kilometres. They maintained their earlier advantage over Movistar crossing with a 4 second advantage and setting new best time of 32:15. Now they had to wait to see what Team Sky could produce.
Not to be outdone by BMC Racing Team's fast start, Team Sky recorded exactly the same time at the 10km check and were 1 second ahead of them at the 21.5km time check. An extraordinary result with both teams riding almost identical races. Chris Froome was doing the work of three men and riding like a man possessed. He did long turns at the front and rarely went to the back of the line to gain full recovery. The final climb would decide the stage, Froome asking the team car for updates, knowing they were so close to a stage victory. The team had five riders left on the final climb and appeared to be riding the perfect race. With only one corner to go, the fifth Team Sky rider Nicolas Roche was in a world of pain, swimming in lactic and going backwards. So much so one of his team mates stretched out a hand, as if to say, "take this, we are almost there". Team Sky crossed the line in 32:16, an astonishing 0.6 seconds off the time set by BMC Racing Team.
Tomorrow is the tours first rest day, so get some sleep. We look forward to bringing you all the news when we hit the mountains.