The Tour de France moved off the island of Corsica today and onto the mainland for the first time as the riders took to the streets of Nice for the team time trial. The course was a mostly flat 25km (15.5 miles) that was rather non-technical and offered few challenges other than racing the clock. For the most part, there were few turns to difficult turns to negotiate and with the weather being relatively bright and clear, the action came fast and furious. Heading into the day, only one second separated the Yellow Jersey from the field, which meant that it was possible for any number of riders to claim it. In the end though, it went to Simon Gerrans, who won yesterday’s stage, as his Orica Greenedge team rode to victory.
The winning team completed their ride in a time of 25:56 with second place Omega Pharma-Quickstep just one second off the pace. The Sky train came in third, three second behind, while Team Saxo Bank and Lotto Belisol rounded out the top five, nine and 27 17 seconds behind respectively.
Todays results started to shake up the leader board a bit, putting a few seconds of time between contenders. But none of the big names are in any kind of serious jeopardy yet. Sky’s Chris Froome is just three seconds behind the Gerrans and Alberto Contador is another six seconds back. Gerrans isn’t a threat to hold on to the maillot jaune for too long, although if he can survive a few climbs tomorrow, he should have a chance to hold onto it for a couple of days.
Following three fantastic days of racing, the team time trial was a good way to bring the race to the mainland. Personally, I’m not as big a fan of the TTT as I am the individual time trials, so I’m glad to have it behind us and getting into the true meat of the race. There is still a long way to go in this year’s Tour and much to be sorted out yet of course, but the next few stages will certainly be more traditional than what we’ve seen so far.
Tomorrow the riders will cover 219km (136.06 miles) between Cagnes-sur-Mer and Marseille. The stage profile features a single Category 3 climb and three Category 4’s. An intermediate sprint section will give the contenders for the Green Jersey a chance to earn some points, but overall I suspect we’ll see very little shake-up in the standings. The finish line comes at the end of a descent, which will give those lagging on the hills a chance to close the gaps. A strong breakaway could make some noise however, provided a group works well together.
Since today was the team time trial, there has been no change in the standings for the jerseys other than the Yellow. Peter Sagan remains in Green, Pierre Rolland has the Polka Dot and Michal Kwiatkowski is in White as the Tour’s best young rider. Each of those could potentially change tomorrow although I believe Sagan will have little difficult keeping his Green Jersey.
We’re just starting to get rolling now. Stay tuned for lots more action to come, including some early mountain stages coming on the weekend. We may get our first glimpse of who are the true contenders at that time, although I have to say that a number of the riders look very comfortable so far. A wide-open Tour is much more fun to watch, so hopefully it’ll be very competitive throughout the remaining three weeks.
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