UAE Team Emirates will be looking ahead to stage four of the Tour de France, keen to regain time following their disappointing 15th place finish in Monday’s Team Time Trial (TTT).
The Emirati formation – who suffered an early bout of bad luck as Oliviero Troia picked up a puncture just 9km into the race – finished 01:39 behind the eventual stage winners, BMC Racing Team.
However, Dan Martin and Co. remain positive for the coming days as they look to climb up the General Classification (GC) standings.
Commenting on the result, Martin said: “We went in with a plan and it worked well. The only real negative was the fact that 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. I felt good and more of the same over the next days and we will see how far we can go. I’m taking it day by day and there are 18 days to go so that is the way we are going to have to take it as anything can happen on any given day.”
It will be another warm day at the saddle on Tuesday as riders get back to normal racing and tackle a 195km flat route from La Baule to Sarzeau. With just one category four climb on the route, a sprint finish is expected, with UAE’s Alexander Kristoff keen to add to his two top-five finishes to date.
BMC edged out Team Sky for victory in the stage three team time trial at the Tour de France but Chris Froome was able to wipe out many of the losses suffered in Saturday’s chaotic opener.
What had once been viewed as an opportunity to make time had become a chance to gain it back after Froome lost 51 seconds to his main rivals on Saturday.
And though Sky missed out on victory – and a chance to put Geraint Thomas in the yellow jersey – Froome was able to eradicate the deficit to many of the other contenders.
BMC proved the class of the field though, completing the 35.5km circuit around Cholet in a time of 38 minutes 46 seconds, four seconds ahead of Sky, to put Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet in yellow.
Quick-Step Floors nicked third place in a time of 38:53, while Adam Yates’ Mitchelton-Scott team were a further two seconds behind before some much larger time gaps further down the order.
That meant that Froome, Yates and BMC’s Porte were all able to take a chunk of time back on several key rivals after suffering losses on stage one.
Thomas missed out on the yellow jersey by just three seconds, having started the day sixth in the general classification and one second up on Van Avermaet.
But Sky will be happy to see many of Froome’s rivals lose significant time.
Movistar could only manage 10th place on the day, 50 seconds off Sky’s pace, which meant Froome is almost back on level terms with Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde while Nairo Quintana drops even further back after his opening day woes.
Vincenzo Nibali’s Bahrain-Merida squad were 11th on the day, giving up 62 seconds to Sky, while Romain Bardet’s AG2R La Mondiale team finished 12th, 71 seconds off Sky’s time.
Dan Martin’s UAE Team Emirates team could only manage 15th place, one minute 39 seconds off the winning time, after key man Oliviero Troia suffered an early puncture.
“Just going on the feeling, I think we can be pretty happy,” Froome said. “We gave it everything we had and it all went pretty much to plan. You can never tell who is going to be on a good day or not, but all in all it worked out well for us.
“Obviously the (Tour) didn’t start too well with the crash on stage one but that’s bike racing. We’ll take it day by day.
“It’s reassuring to take back some time. It would have been nice not to have lost it in the first place. But as I say, that’s bike racing. 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. That’s the nature of the game.”
Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford has criticised UCI president David Lappartient, suggesting he still has mentality of a local French mayor who is struggling to get a handle on his responsibilities.
Brailsford has been left frustrated by Lappartient’s handling of the anti-doping investigation into Sky’s Chris Froome, which was closed on Monday with the four-time Tour winner cleared of any wrong-doing after he returned a test containing high levels of Salbutamol at La Vuelta last year.
Lappartient was among those who said Froome, whose case should have remained confidential unless an anti-doping charge was brought, should not race after the news was leaked in December.
And since the case was closed on Monday, the Frenchman has contradicted his own organisation’s statement on whether or not more information on the case might be released, and suggested to BBC Sport that Sky were able to successfully defend Froome because they have a bigger budget than other teams.
That left Brailsford to wonder if the 45-year-old Lappartient, the former mayor of Sarzeau in Brittany, understood his job properly.
“I gave him the benefit of the doubt when he started,” Brailsford said. “He’s new to the job and he obviously doesn’t quite understand the responsibilities of a presidential role. I think he’s still got the kind of local french mayor kind of mentality maybe.”
Lappartient told the BBC he would be happy to provide more details on Froome’s now closed Salbutamol case, but needed the permission of the four-time Tour winner to publish the information.
But he said that just hours after a lengthy UCI statement said there were “important reasons” the World Anti-Doping Agency did not release such information, not least that it might be used by others to beat the system.
“It would be better if he was clearer,” Brailsford said. “He’s contradicted himself a few times in some of the things he’s saying. One minute it’s we [the UCI] can release stuff and the next minute we can’t.”
Brailsford has repeatedly said it is up to the UCI and WADA to publish further information on the case as it was their decision to explain.
Lappartient’s comments about Team Sky’s budget risked stirring up sentiment against the team amongst French crowds, who have already shown their hostility towards Froome this week, despite him being cleared of wrong-doing.
“If you want to be the president of an international federation, protect everyone in that community,” Brailsford said. “Don’t take the French angle, or a nationalistic view. Protect the international community with no bias.
“And I think he’s still learning that really. And the quicker he can get there and learn what the president of an international federation’s responsibilities are the better it will be for everybody. But he’s got some work to do.”
Brailsford rejected the premise of Lappartient’s comments regarding Sky’s budget, saying their investment in the sport should be welcomed.
“If I were in charge of the UCI I’d want major international sponsors to come from other sports to this one,” he said. “I’d by trying to attract the big guys, not criticising them for their resources – you should be getting more resources into the sport.
“And if that resource enables you to refine or test some of the regulations where riders who haven’t got the funds have a false positive, if that were me I’d be saying, ‘Thanks very much for that investment, because I think we can use this and keep on developing everything to make our rules better’.
“And if we’re looking to protect innocent riders then we don’t want false positive. And if someone can help support that, then well done. I wouldn’t be taking the angle that there is one rule for one and one rule for another.”