Tour de France: Greg van Avermaet in yellow as BMC Racing win team time trial

The BMC racing team produced a superb team time trial to claim stage three
BMC also won the team time trial stages at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Suisse this year

BMC Racing won the team time trial on stage three of the Tour de France to put Greg van Avermaet into the race lead as Chris Froome made up time on several key rivals.

Belgium's Van Avermaet was part of the BMC group that clocked 38 minutes 46 seconds on the 35.5km route in Cholet.

The 33-year-old takes the yellow jersey from stage-two winner Peter Sagan.

Team Sky were second fastest, four seconds down on BMC, to help four-time winner Froome climb the standings.

The Briton is 18th overall - 55 seconds behind Van Avermaet - but has restored parity with most of the overall contenders after losing time in a crash on stage one.

He said he was "really happy" with Team Sky's performance, despite missing the chance to put Geraint Thomas into the race lead. The Welshman is third overall, three seconds behind Van Avermaet.

"It was a strong effort from everyone," added Froome. "I'm feeling good and looking forward to the next few days."

Quick-Step Floors finished third on the stage, seven seconds adrift of BMC, while Adam Yates' Mitchelton-Scott squad were two seconds further back, putting the 25-year-old Briton 20th overall, five seconds behind Froome.

Regain instead of gain

Before the Tour, BMC, Team Sky and Mitchelton-Scott would have targeted this stage as an opportunity for their respective leaders Richie Porte, Froome and Yates to put time into rivals whose teams are weaker against the clock.

After all three fell on stage one and lost 51 seconds to Romain Bardet, Tom Dumoulin, Mikel Landa, Vincenzo Nibali and Rigoberto Uran, all three teams made amends superbly.

Mitchelton-Scott went out first and set the mark at 38.55, Team Sky shaved five seconds off that next up before BMC, starting fifth, laid down the eventual winning time.

Movistar could manage only 10th place, surrendering almost all of the lead Landa and Alejandro Valverde had over Froome and ensuring Nairo Quintana falls even further back after his crash on stage one.

Bardet's AG2R La Mondiale team and Nibali's Bahrain-Merida outfit tried to limit their losses but could not prevent Porte, Froome and Yates erasing their leads in the standings.

World time trial champion Dumoulin and his Sunweb team put in a strong ride to move him into seventh, 40 seconds ahead of Froome, while Education First's Uran had a solid day to move into the top 10.

Swansong for BMC?

BMC celebrate winning stage three of the Tour de France
There are doubts over the future of BMC beyond this season

BMC's owner and financial backer Andy Rihs died in April and the team are yet to secure a major sponsor for next year, leading to uncertainty over whether the team will continue.

There are also reports that team leader Porte has already agreed a two-year deal with Trek-Segafredo, but the American outfit shrugged off those concerns to continue their recent dominance in team time trials.

"It's a fantastic day to win the stage with the team like that, especially with the passing of Andy Rihs this year, so that's a special feeling," said Australian Porte.

Having dropped stage one winner Fernando Gaviria early on, a ragged but rapid Quick-Step tried to put Philippe Gilbert into yellow, with the Belgian going into the stage with a two-second gap over compatriot Van Avermaet.

But once those crucial seconds elapsed, Van Avermaet could celebrate a return to the yellow jersey, having worn it for three stages during the 2016 Tour.

Sagan was never in contention to defend the jersey and was dropped by his Bora-Hansgrohe team-mates, falling to three minutes behind Van Avermaet.

What about stage four?

Tuesday's stage four is expected to end in a bunch sprint, with the race travelling 195km from La Baule to Sarzeau.

In his stage-by-stage guide for BBC Sport, Mark Cavendish said: "There is nothing of great difficulty and there's a nice fast run-in to the finish.

"It does drag slightly uphill in the last kilometre but with it being a straight road and not coming in off a corner it should mean a bunch sprint."

stage four profile

Stage three result

1. BMC Racing (US) 38mins 46secs

2. Team Sky (GB) +4secs

3. Quick-Step Floors (Bel) +7secs

4. Mitchelton Scott (Aus) +9secs

5. Team Sunweb (Ger) +11secs

6. EF Education First-Drapac (US) +35secs

7. Bora-Hansgrohe (Ger) +50secs

8. Astana (Kaz) +51secs

9. Katusha-Alpecin (Swi) +52secs

10. Movistar (Spa) +53secs

General classification after stage three

1. Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing) 9hrs 8mins 55secs

2. Tejay van Garderen (US/BMC Racing) same time

3. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) +3secs

4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Quick-Step Floors) +5secs

5. Bob Jungels (Lux/Quick-Step Floors) +7secs

6. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Quick-Step Floors) same time

7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Team Sunweb) +11secs

8. Soren Kragh Andersen (Den/Team Sunweb) same time

9. Michael Matthews (Aus/Team Sunweb)

10. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Education First-Drapac) +35secs

Selected:

18. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +55secs

20. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +1min

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