World champions BMC won the Stage 9 team time-trial at the Tour de France yesterday, beating Team Sky by a single second as Chris Froome retained custody of the race leader’s yellow jersey.
However, Irishman Nicolas Roche, the Sky team captain for the three-week Grand Tour admitted to being disgusted with his late collapse, which cost his team the stage win.
Sky were down to five riders from their starting nine as the finish line yawned out in front of them.
The time of the fifth rider across the line is the team’s time for the stage but the Irishman became distanced in the final few hundred metres, which meant the others had to wait for him.
“I don’t have any words to explain my disappointment,” he told reporters after.
Sky would lose out by less than a second as the winners clocked a blistering time of 32:15 and an average speed of over 52kph for the 28 lumpy kilometres from Vannes to Plumelec.
Froome was quick to defend the performance of Roche.
“In the final we saw Nico struggling a little bit up that final climb but that’s the nature of the team time trial,” said Froome.
“He gave so much earlier on, you definitely can’t put it down to him struggling on the final climb.
“We gave it everything and BMC were just better than us.”
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 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,” he 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, he enjoys a healthy advantage over his main GC rivals — Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and BMC’s Tejay van Garderen.
The American sits second overall, 12 seconds behind Froome, with Greg Van Avermaet (also BMC) a further 15 seconds back.
Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) flattered to deceive yet again, losing another 18 seconds to Quintana and 45 seconds to Froome, with Contador also slipping behind by 28 seconds to the race leader.
Meanwhile, it was a case of so near yet so far for Dan Martin on Saturday when he went agonisingly close to winning the eighth stage.
The Irishman was second to Frenchman Alexis Vuillermoz, who claimed his first ever Grand Tour stage victory following a well-timed attack, the AG2R La Mondiale man springing clear off the front of the race inside the final kilometre and holding on ahead of a fast-finishing Martin.
Crossing the line, Martin hammered his handlebars in frustration, later explaining how he was boxed-in before he attacked, preventing him from launching himself earlier.
“I was on the wrong side of the group,” he said .
“I saw the AG2R guy [Vuillermoz] go but I just couldn’t get out.
“When I did it was too late and I’m really disappointed because the guys rode so well and they kept me out of trouble, relaxed, and they believed in me.
“Everyone was stuck on the right hand barrier, I was on the right hand barrier and there was no where to go.
“We’ll try again.”
Today, the riders will enjoy the first rest day of the Tour, with Martin lying 31st overall at 9:21, Roche (Team Sky) 72nd at 25:25 and debutant Sam Bennett (Bora Argon 18) 177th at 1:00:45 seconds.
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