BMC takes narrow victory in Tour de France TTT, Froome retains yellow jersey
Team time trial world champions BMC have won the stage 9 TTT at the 2015 Tour de France, beating Team Sky by a single second as Movistar finished a further three seconds down in third place.
BMC averaged 52.1km/h for 28 lumpy kilometres from Vannes to Plumelec, crossing the finish line at the top of the stage’s third climb after 32 minutes and 15 seconds.
The result ensures Chris Froome (Sky) will retain the yellow jersey of the overall race leader on stage 10. Despite missing out on the stage victory, Sky’s leader said after the stage that he and his teammates were happy with their performance.
“This was a really big objective for us. I think the team can be really happy with [second place],” Froome said. “Of course it would have been great to win it but we gave it absolutely everything we had and the guys rode really well together.”
For Froome, the result puts him in a far better position after nine stages than he could have hoped for.
“If you’d said to me at the beginning of this race that we’d be in yellow on the first rest day I really wouldn’t have believed you, especially after how things turned out last year,” Froome said, referring to his exit from the race on stage 5 in the 2014 Tour. “This first period of the race was a big concern for me — I was just hoping not to lose time to my main contenders.”
Instead Froome enjoys a healthy buffer over his main GC rivals — Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) — and it’s BMC’s Tejay van Garderen that is of greatest concern to Froome at this stage.
With the first nine days of racing complete, Van Garderen now sits second overall, 12 seconds behind Froome. The American said after the stage that he would like to have been in yellow after the stage, but was more than happy with the stage win.
“In a perfect world we would have taken the jersey into the rest day but we’re just happy with the stage win,” Van Garderen said. “We came in as favourites and it’s always hard to perform with that kind of pressure but everyone was just so motivated.
“Everyone pulled through so smooth. Maybe it sounds bad but there’s a reason why we’re world champions in this discipline.”
How it unfolded
After great success in Grand Tour TTTs in recent years, a depleted Orica-GreenEdge was clearly in survival mode as the first team to start the stage. With just six of the team’s nine starters left in the race, the Australian squad rode an extremely conservative time trial to finish last, nearly five minutes behind eventual winners BMC and almost two-and-a-half minutes behind the next-slowest team.
A tweet from the team’s official Twitter account after the stage read: “Not how we like to ride a TTT but we needed to reassess our objectives and we’ll come back firing!”
After Bretagne-Seche finished their effort more than three minutes faster than Orica-GreenEdge, it was Lampre-Merida that set the most impressive early time, powering through the course in a time of 33:03 — an average speed of 50.8km/h. IAM Cycling bettered the Italian team’s mark by 10 seconds, before Astana went another three seconds faster, crossing the line in 32:50.
Despite splitting into two groups on the second of three climbs — apparently due to crowd noise which made it hard for riders to hear one another — Movistar rallied to set the best time by more than 30 seconds — 32:19 (52.0km/h). Tinkoff-Saxo, too, looked on target to move into the hotseat, setting the best time at the 10km intermediate check, but faded badly in the remainder of the stage to finish fourth overall.
All eyes were on pre-stage favourites BMC as they rolled down the start ramp and the American squad didn’t disappoint. They were the fastest team by seven seconds at the first time check (after 10km), four seconds faster at the second check (after 20.5km), and four seconds faster than Movistar at the finish.
With the yellow skinsuit-ed Chris Froome in their midst, Team Sky were last to begin the stage. They arrived at the first time check with the same time as BMC, were one second faster by the second check, but by the time they crossed the finish line at the top of the tough final climb, they were one second slower than the world champions.
But with Chris Froome booking another day in yellow, stage 9 was far from disappointing for the British squad.
With the challenging first nine days of the race now complete, the riders of the 2015 Tour de France can now enjoy a well-earned rest day, albeit with a long transfer to the south of France to endure tonight.
When the race resumes on Tuesday it will be with a 167km stage from Tarbes to La Pierre-Saint-Martin. The first of three mountain stages in the Pyrenees, stage 10 will likely be decided on the 15.3km stage-ending climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin; a climb which averages 7.4% but is considerably steeper than that for its first half.
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