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12 July 2018, 09:26 | Henrietta Morgan
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In the intermediate sprint, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) took a second and increased his advantage in the GC fight.
BMC proved the class of the field, 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.
"But boy we are so happy to get here without having had two minutes stuck into us by Froome", he said of Bardet's 20 second deficit on the champion. "We're on track but there's still so much to go through".
"It's a dream. We rode a good time trial and the whole team worked hard", said Van Avermaet.
"Obviously the [Tour] didn't start too well with the crash on stage one but that's bike racing".
Times were taken from the fourth rider on each eight-man team to cross the line. It would have been nice not to have thrown 51 seconds away on the first day.
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"It's amusing because at the end of the day it's just another bike race".
Though they regrouped quickly, with Philippe Gilbert now their yellow jersey hope, they could not make back the time they lost as they finished third on the stage.
"I'll be wearing the yellow jersey probably for only one day, but I'm happy for that. That's the nature of the game".
At 1.8 kilometres from the finish line, there was a crash that involved the Yellow Jersey wearer Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) as well as Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott).
"Team EF-Drapac managed to cut their losses for Rigoberto Uran - their powerful TTT team stopping the clock in 39'21" - while Team Sunweb also ensured they lost very little over the potentially tricky parcours.
Monday's third stage is a 35.5km team time-trial where the agenda for a tricky first week should be set with some significant time gaps expected on a slightly rolling course around Cholet in the same region as the first two stages.
Sky were second off the start ramp and set off to a mixed reception one week after the UCI announced it had closed its anti-doping investigation into Froome. They were only seven seconds back and on a similar trajectory to us so you do have to wait. To win with these guys is a great feeling.
Thomas, who wore yellow for four days past year, said that he was not bothered by the...
"We were favourites and it was good to deliver. Close but not quite quick enough".
While Sky missed out, victory was a boon to Porte - a year to the day after he was hospitalised by the serious crash which ended his 2017 Tour - and the BMC team whose future remains uncertain as they seek a new title sponsor.
Porte may be linked with a switch to the American Trek-Segafredo team next year, but the future of other riders and team staff is uncertain; and in the biggest race of the year, Monday's victory was the medicine they all collectively needed to reaffirm their overriding goal of reaching the finish as the team of the 2018 Tour victor.
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That match against West Germany had ended in a 1-1 draw, with England going on to lose the penalty shootout. He said: "Thanks to you lovely people, Shotgun has been Number 1 for two weeks running.