Tom Dumoulin’s Sunweb team finished fifth, and he now sits seventh overall, but he was very much a winner.
Lawson Craddock, riding with a fractured scapula, was dropped by his EF Education First-Drapac teammates 3km from the finish line, but he was a big, big winner.
Greg Van Avermaet, of course, was Monday’s biggest winner, his BMC Racing Team taking the Stage 3 team time trial in Cholet, slotting the Olympic road champion and 2017 Paris-Roubaix winner into the maillot jaune.
Because in stage racing gains are relative to others’ losses, some riders emerged as winners in Cholet though they did not win, and others emerged as losers though they did not actually lose.
So let’s rank them, shall we?
Finishing alongside Van Avermaet, Richie Porte was the biggest winner among GC contenders, though he took only four seconds from Chris Froome and his Team Sky squad, and he sits 14th overall, 51 seconds down.
“I think after what happened on the first stage, throwing 51 seconds away, it was good to take back time on some of the other GC guys,” Porte said.”Today puts us right back in the game.”
The difference a year makes! From crashing out to being part of a stage win @LeTour a year to the day. Incredible day for all here at @BMCProTeam and @GregVanAvermaet in yellow! #ridebmc pic.twitter.com/TwV4eVkSUL
— Richie Porte (@richie_porte) July 9, 2018
BMC Racing can also view the stage win as an extra victory given its current search for a title sponsor, with rumors suggesting that team owner Jim Ochowicz has been engaged in high-level sponsorship meetings during the opening days of the Tour.
Tejay van Garderen was also a stage winner, but the American must feel wistful to have missed out on the maillot jaune by stage placings, rather than time. Two men lead the Tour de France, but Van Avermaet finished higher than van Garderen on Stage 1 and Stage 2. It’s difficult to see a scenario where van Garderen slips into yellow before, or after, the peloton’s trip across the cobblestones into Roubaix on Stage 9. And once the race heads into the mountains he’ll be working for Porte, barring any mishaps.
Even with four national TT champions on its eight-man squad — Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain), Geraint Thomas (Britain), Egan Bernal (Colombia), and Gianni Moscon (Italy) — Team Sky could not topple BMC. Still, Thomas slots into third overall behind Van Avermaet and van Garderen, while Froome gained on all GC contenders other than Porte. Froome still has time to make up, however, after losing 51 seconds due to a crash on Stage 1.
“Obviously [the Tour] didn’t start too well with the crash, but that’s bike racing, and there’s still a lot of racing to come,” Froome said. “[Taking back some time] is reassuring. It would have been nice not to lose it in the first place, but I think there will be a lot more time lost throughout the GC group before we hit the mountains. One day you gain, one day you lose.”
Video: Summary, Stage 3, 2018 Tour de France
Likewise, Dumoulin could only be pleased after taking time out of nearly all GC favorites and staying close to Porte and Froome. Sunweb lost 11 seconds to BMC, but Dumoulin now sits third among GC contenders behind only Van Garderen and Thomas.
“Technically everything went perfect,” Dumoulin said. “Eventually we were very close to the victory and we could not wish for more outside of the win. We knew that a win would be very difficult and we are very proud of the result. I’m happy about the GC consequences.”
After hitting the deck twice in the first two days of racing, Adam Yates can only be pleased with how his Mitchelton-Scott team performed, finishing fourth, nine seconds behind BMC — particularly given that Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey both crashed Sunday as well.
Yates now sits 20th overall, behind Thomas, Dumoulin, Rigoberto Uran, Porte, Mikel Landa, and Froome, but ahead of riders such as Vincenzo Nibali, Romain Bardet, Dan Martin, and Nairo Quintana.
“Adam is now back where he needs to be,” said Mitchelton-Scott team director Matt White. “We knew today would be a day we could gain some time on our some of our rivals, and we’ve done that.”
Quick-Step Floors did not have the day they would have hoped for, with Fernando Gaviria dropped early and the team’s cohesion in disarray midway through the 35km ride, but they pulled it together well enough to finish third, seven seconds back, with Philippe Gilbert, Bob Jungels, and Julien Alaphilippe sitting fourth, fifth, and sixth overall, respectively, poised to pounce on the maillot jaune in the classics-style stages to come over the week to come.
Rigoberto Uran should be pleased with his position after the TTT. EF Education First-Drapac finished sixth on the stage, ceding 35 seconds to BMC, 31 seconds to Team Sky, 26 seconds to Mitchelton-Scott, and 23 seconds to Sunweb. Uran now sits 10th overall, 35 seconds down. He can also take comfort in the fact that Craddock, it appears, will be able to continue, and contribute, in the days to come.
“We feel great about that,” said EF Education First-Drapac rider Taylor Phinney, who powered the squad along before losing contact and crossing the finish line 21 seconds back. “In the past we usually would lose one minute, sometimes two minutes. To lose 35 seconds, considering what happened on the first stage, the time we gained on a couple guys, we’re very happy with how today went. It’s a small victory.”’
As for Craddock, he exceeded all expectations, not only taking pulls for the team but staying with the squad’s top riders until the final 3km. “I’m truly inspired by all the support I’ve gotten over the last few days,” Craddock said. “I’m praying for another 17 days like this.”
Super proud of what the @Ride_Argyle boys achieved today!! A lot of hard work went into the preparation for today's performance. #pinkargyle ???????? #TDF2018
???? @bettiniphoto pic.twitter.com/fcSb28LXow
— Simon Clarke (@SimoClarke) July 9, 2018
For every small victory, there were small losses — and for every big victory, there were large losses.
The Movistar team of Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde, and Mikel Landa did not quite perform up to expectations, finishing 10th and ceding 54 seconds to BMC Racing, and 51 seconds to Team Sky. Given Quintana’s time loss on Stage 1, when he had a mechanical issue just outside of 3km from the finish, it’s getting harder to envision him wearing the yellow jersey at any point in this Tour. The Colombian, who was won the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España and finished on the Tour podium three times, now sits 59th overall, 2:08 down, while Valverde and Landa sit 16th and 17th, respectively, 53 seconds back.
The Movistar team web site describes the Spanish squad’s ride as “decent.”
“Already before the race we had stated it was an ‘anti-TTT’ for us — a route for the powerful riders, really fast, not really suited for us climbers, having to fight and limit losses against squads like Sky or BMC, who have got better specialists,” Quintana said. “I think we defended ourselves well over such a fast parcours, where the riders weighing the most could take advantage. It’s a good result. Obviously, it’s not nice when you lose time, but it wasn’t so bad.”
Likewise, the Bahrain-Merida team web site describes its team performance as “good but not great.” The team finished 11th, 1:06 behind BMC’s winning time. Vincenzo Nibali now sits 22nd, 1:06 behind Van Avermaet.
“We are not great TTT specialists, and in the last kilometers I stayed with only three teammates — Ion and Gorka Izagirre and Domenico Pozzovivo — so we tried to contain the gap,” Nibali said. “We are only at the beginning of the Tour and the most important thing is that I feel good.”
Given recent injuries within the Ag2r La Mondiale squad — Tony Gallopin fractured a rib at the French national road championship on July 2, and Sylvain Dillier crashed on Stage 2 — Romain Bardet can be content with his team’s performance, even if that meant finishing 12th and losing 1:11 to Froome and 1:04 to Dumoulin.
“It’s a good time trial,” said Ag2r team manager Vincent Lavenu. “The team worked very well together, especially considering we started with two of our strongest riders injured, so there were uncertainties for us. Nevertheless, Tony Gallopin and Silvan Dillier were solid; they helped the team to stay consistent throughout the course. The overall result is good. We have cut our losses compared to the best teams during the Dauphiné team time trial.”
— Romain Bardet (@romainbardet) July 9, 2018
LottoNL-Jumbo finished 13th, in the same time as Ag2r, and while the French team was relatively pleased, the Belgian squad saw their ride as fairly disappointing. Primoz Roglic, an outside pick to fight for the podium, had now sits 27th overall, at 1:15.
“You always hope for a surprise, but we also have to be realistic,” said LottoNL-Jumbo director Mathieu Heijboer. “For today, it was most important that everyone would perform as well as possible, and that the stronger guys wouldn’t demand too much from the less strong guys. That worked out quite well, but we started a little too conservatively, so we lost a bit more time than we had calculated beforehand.”
Of all the GC contenders, Dan Martin was the day’s biggest loser. UAE-Team Emirates placed 15th, and the Irishman now sits 39th on GC, 1:38 down.
“We went in with a plan and it worked well,” Martin said. “The only real negative was the fact that [Oliviero] Troia, who was brought in to help us in the team time trial, got a puncture after 9km. That maybe cost us 15 or 20 seconds at the finish line. Other than that, we all rode out of our skin.”
And though he’s not a GC contender, former maillot jaune Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) merits a mention. Though it was expected that he would not defend the yellow jersey, Sagan had an admittedly bad day — he was dropped 10km from the finish and crossed the line 2:26 behind his teammates, who placed seventh on the day, keeping Rafal Majka in GC contention as the Polish rider climbed to 11th in the overall, 50 seconds down.
“I had bad legs today, from the start,” Sagan said. “It was really hot and I also lost my bottle on a bump, just 400 metres into the race. I gave my best, as I always do, but I also suffered a lot to respect the yellow jersey I had. I wish I could have contributed a little bit more to Rafal’s GC today but this is the way it is in sports. You have good days, you have difficult days. Tomorrow we’ll have another chance.”
Sagan will have more chances for stage wins in the days to come, but he now sits 80th overall, 3:00 down, meaning he won’t be wearing yellow again at this Tour; he’ll wear green as a consolation prize. And should he lose that, he’s got the rainbow stripes to fall back on. Even when Sagan is losing, he’s winning.
VIRTUAL GC AMONG GENERAL CLASSIFICATION CONTENDERS
1. Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), 9:08:55
2. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), at 0:03
3. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), at 0:11
4. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac), at 0:35
5. Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), at 0:50
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), at 0:51
7. Richie Porte (BMC Racing), at 0:51
8. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), at 0:53
9. Mikel Landa (Movistar), at 0:53
10. Chris Froome (Team Sky), at 0:55
11. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), at 1:00
12. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), at 1:06
13. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), at 1:15
14. Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), at same time
15. Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates), at 1:38
16. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), at 2:08
CyclingTips editor Neal Rogers will be writing a daily column during the 2018 Tour de France, focused on analysis, commentary, and opinion.