Tour de France: Chris Froome retains lead after team time trial

By Peter ScrivenerBBC Sport
Team Sky cross the finish line on stage nine in Plumelec
Team Sky's Roche struggled in the final couple of hundred metres of the team time trial

Britain's Chris Froome retained the overall leader's yellow jersey after a closely fought team time trial on stage nine of the Tour de France in Brittany.

Froome's Team Sky were last out on the 28km route and finished in second, 0.62 seconds slower than BMC Racing.

The 2013 champion now leads BMC's American rider Tejay van Garderen by 12 seconds in the overall standings.

Froome gained more time on two-time winner Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali.

Italian Nibali was the day's biggest loser in the battle between the so called 'big four' with his Astana team finishing 35 seconds adrift of the winners. He now trails Froome by two minutes and 22 seconds.

"I am surprised he's lost so much time already," said Froome.

"I certainly didn't expect it. I thought he was going to be the one guy from the main contenders who would gain time in this first phase of the race.

"Nibali and Quintana have lost substantial time already so the pressure is on them to be attacking as we go into the climbs."

Analysis - BBC Sport's Matt Slater
If Chris Froome decides he has had enough of riding up volcanoes, skipping pudding and risking his neck hurtling down mountains, he would do very well as a cycling bookmaker. He said there could be gaps of up to 30 seconds between the main contenders, he highlighted Vincenzo Nibali's struggles and he said it is time to start talking about Tejay Van Garderen as a genuine challenger.
He also said Team Sky had picked a group of riders who would go very well on this time trial course.Right, every time. But better than that, he goes into the first mountain stages with a healthy lead over his most dangerous rivals and a team that is showing great strength and unity. He looks like he is enjoying it, too. No wonder so many in the 'team paddock' were saying he looks the most likely champion in Paris.
Listen to more on the podcast.

Quintana picked up valuable time on Contador and Nibali as his Movistar team finished just four seconds off the pace. He now trails Froome by one minute, 59 seconds.

Contador's Tinkoff-Saxo squad finished 28 seconds behind BMC, to leave him 63 seconds behind Froome. The Spaniard is looking to become the first man since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Tour and Giro d'Italia in the same year.

Van Garderen, who was fifth last year, and in 2012, is positioning himself as a rider Froome will need to keep an eye on when the race resumes in the Pyrenees mountains on Tuesday after Monday's rest day.

The American said it would be "a tall order" for him to win the Tour but added "everything's clicking and it's all about momentum".

The 22 teams in the race set off at five minute intervals from Vannes and Team Sky were level with BMC, the team time trial world champions, at the 10km time check.

Froome, the 2012 Olympic time trial bronze medallist, put in several big turns on the front of the Team Sky train as they moved one second ahead of BMC at 20.5km and five seconds clear at the bottom of the 1.7km climb to the finish in Plumelec.

However, with the clock not stopping until the first five riders crossed the finish line, the British-based team blew their advantage.

They had just five riders left on the ascent and Irish rider Nicolas Roche was clearly struggling in the closing stages, so much so that Froome had to ease off and shout encouragement.

While that undoubtedly cost Team Sky the stage win, they had the consolation of retaining the yellow jersey.

Geraint Thomas's stage-by-stage guide
Stage 10: Tarbes - La Pierre-Saint-Martin, 167km (103.8 miles)
"Froome rode this stage after the Criterium du Dauphine and said it's pretty tough. It certainly looks that way from the stage profile, and if Froomey says it's a hard one, it really is. Sometimes after a rest day your legs can feel pretty weird - after racing full gas for nine days and then having a day without that high intensity you can feel pretty lethargic. There's a flat start so a good chance for a breakaway to stay away, but on the final climb we'll see the first real showdown between all the contenders for the yellow jersey."
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas's analysis of all 21 stages.

A Geraint Thomas column assessing the opening week of this year's Tour will be on the BBC Sport website from Monday morning.

Movistar riders on team time trial
Thousands of fans lined the 28km route from Vannes to Plumelec
Vincenzo Nibali (centre) cross the finish line with his Astana team-mates
Defending champion Nibali (centre) lost more ground on his main rivals for the overall victory
Alberto Contador (left) riding behind Tinkoff-Saxo team-mate Peter Sagan
Contador (left) is trying to become the first man in 17 years to win the Giro'dItalia-Tour double

Stage nine result:

1. BMC Racing (US) 32mins 15secs

2. Team Sky (GB) +01sec

3. Movistar (Spa) +04secs

4. Tinkoff - Saxo (Rus) +28secs

5. Astana (Kaz) +35secs

General classification:

1. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky 31hrs 34mins 12secs

2. Tejay van Garderen (US) BMC Racing +12secs

3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing +27secs

4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff - Saxo +38secs

5. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff - Saxo +1min 03secs

6. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step +1min 18secs

7. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar +1min 50secs

8. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky +1min 52secs

9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar +1min 59secs

10. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step Same time

Selected other:

13. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana +2mins 22secs

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