Fernando Gaviria won stage four of the Tour de France as Mark Cavendish suffered further frustration in Sarzeau.
Quick-Step’s Gaviria edged out Peter Sagan at the line for his second stage victory of this year’s Tour, but Cavendish was left shaking a fist in anger after being caught out of position and touched by Dylan Groenewegen in the battle for space.
BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet retained the yellow jersey by finishing in the front group at the end of the 195km stage from La Baule.
Cavendish, looking to add to his 30 career Tour stage wins and chase down Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34, had been unable to contest sprints on the opening two stages after getting caught up in the chaos of their technical finishes.
Here his team looked well placed on the left-hand side of the road after the peloton’s late catch of the day’s breakaway almost in sight of the finish line.
But there was another breakdown in the Dimension Data lead-out train at a crucial moment as they perhaps hit the front too soon, and Cavendish could not respond as his rivals swarmed past.
By the time LottoNL-Jumbo’s Groenewegen brushed by him, Cavendish already looked out of it.
That left Gaviria, the 23-year-old Colombian making his Tour debut this year, to put in another huge turn of power which proved too much for Sagan despite a late push.
Chris Froome and the rest of the general classification contenders finished in the main group to ensure status quo in the battle for yellow, with EF Education First-Drapac’s Rigoberto Uran successfully chasing back on after being caught in a late crash to stay 10th, 35 seconds off Van Avermaet.
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.”