Martin wins stage six as Thomas climbs to second overall

Dan Martin wins stage six of the Tour de France

Dan Martin had the strength to hold off the chasing pack after a short and sharp final climb

Ireland’s Dan Martin produced a superb late attack on the Mur de Bretagne to win stage six of the Tour de France.

Birmingham-born Martin went with a kilometre to go on the final climb and held off the late challenge of Pierre Roger Latour by a second.

Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas was part of a group three seconds behind but climbed to second overall after securing two bonus seconds during the stage.

Chris Froome was eight seconds back and Tom Dumoulin nearly a minute behind.

The Dutchman had to have a front wheel change just over 5km from the finish and chased desperately with the help of team-mates to try to limit the damage – only to be handed a 20-second penalty for drafting behind a team car.

Britain’s Adam Yates finished sixth on the day in the pack three seconds back, and has vaulted above Froome in the overall standings.

The pair are 13th and 14th, one minute two seconds behind yellow jersey Greg van Avermaet, and 21 seconds ahead of Dumoulin.

Martin proves strongest on uphill finish

The stage, which finished with a second ascent of the category-three Mur de Bretagne, delivered the dramatic climax that the organisers had hoped for.

Martin’s surge for the line was decisive as he secured his second stage win in the Tour, five years after his maiden success in the Pyreenes.

“It is great to get a win after so many second places since the last one,” said the 31-year-old.

“I wasn’t sure because of the crosswinds, but I had no team-mates and I thought I would have a go.

“The legs were there though – maybe it was adrenaline – and luckily it worked out.”

Froome reveals weakness?

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Froome fought back from behind to claim the Giro d’Italia title earlier this year

As Martin rode clear, a host of general classification contenders endured the most testing examination of their credentials so far.

Froome, in pursuit of his fifth Tour de France title and fourth successive Grand Tour victory, let five seconds slip in the overall standings to encourage rivals, of whom Dumoulin was Thursday’s biggest loser.

After securing two bonus seconds at the ‘bonification’ sprint‚Äč, Thomas said he went for them “because I saw the opportunity”.

“I don’t think they are going to let me get away with it again,” said Thomas, who has been given licence to ride for himself for the first nine stages of the Tour at least.

The 181km (112-mile) stage had earlier been brought to life by New Zealander Dion Smith forming part of a five-man breakaway in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to wrestle the polka-dot jersey from Tom Skujins.

Stage six result

1. Daniel Martin (Ire/UAE Team Emirates) 4hrs 13mins 43secs

2. Pierre Latour (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale) +1 secs

3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +3 secs

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

5. Rafal Majka (Pol/Bora – Hansgrohe)

6. Adam Yates (Gbr/Mitchelton – Scott)

7. Bauke Mollema (Ned/Trek – Segafredo)

8. Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora – Hansgrohe)

9. Geraint Thomas (Gbr/Team Sky)

10. Primoz Roglic (Slo/LottoNL – Jumbo)

General classification after stage six

1. Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing) 13hrs 33mins 56secs

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

3. Tejay van Garderen (US/BMC Racing) +5secs

4. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Quick-Step Floors) +6secs

5. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Quick-Step Floors) +12secs

6. Bob Jungels (Lux/Quick-Step Floors) +18secs

7. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Education First) +37secs

8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +51secs

9. Rafal Majka (Pol/Bora – Hansgrohe) +52secs

10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana) +53secs

Selected:

13. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +1min 2secs

14. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) same time

15. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Sunweb) +1min 23 secs

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/44812485

Sagan sprints to second stage win of 2018 Tour

Peter Sagan (in green) surges clear to win the stage

Peter Sagan showed his versatility as he won a hilly stage with an uphill finish in typically buccaneering style

World champion Peter Sagan outstayed his rivals to win a dramatic uphill sprint finish in Quimper on stage five of the Tour de France.

He made his move with 200m to go, beating Sonny Colbrelli and Philippe Gilbert for his second stage win.

Greg van Avermaet stayed in the yellow jersey, extending his overall lead with a two-second bonus during the stage.

He came seventh, behind Ireland’s Dan Martin, while Chris Froome finished safely in the peloton.

In an impressive performance from Team Sky, Froome’s team-mate Geraint Thomas came home 12th. The Welshman is fourth in the general classification, five seconds off Van Avermaet.

Sagan’s skills to the fore

On a rolling, twisting 204km stage, which demanded technical skills throughout and canny tactics at the finish, Sagan’s ability came to the fore.

The 28-year-old, who has represented his country in mountain biking at the Olympics, plotted his path to the finish superbly, overhauling Colbrelli in the final few metres.

Excluding Monday’s team trial, Sagan has two second-placed finishes and two stage victories from the Tour’s five race days so far.

He won five successive points classifications until 2016 before his run ended last year with disqualification following a crash involving Mark Cavendish.

With a 33-point lead over second-placed Colombian Fernando Gaviria and nearly 100 points over the rest of the field, he may well carry the green jersey all the way to Paris.

Thomas to be unleashed for second week?

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Thomas has only one Tour de France stage win to his name

Thomas claimed before the start of the Tour that Team Sky would permit him to compete as a contender for the overall title – rather than as support for four-time champion Froome – until at least Monday’s first rest day.

The plan is apparently to review the situation from there.

So far the 32-year-old has done his best to ensure he is given longer to chase yellow for himself.

His current contract with Sky expires at the end of 2018.

And, although he is rumoured to be close to a renewal, a strong showing as a lead rider, combined with his recent win in the Criterium du Dauphine, would only strengthen his hand in negotiations with them or other teams.

Sky’s Rowe in ‘pantomime’ banner row

Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford says the behaviour of some fans at the roadside in France is bordering on “pantomime”.

And it is his riders who have been cast as the villains, with some fans protesting against Sky and lead rider Froome after an anti-doping case against the four-time Tour winner was recently dropped by cycling chiefs.

“To a large extent it feels like a pantomime, but as the guy responsible for all the riders and our staff I still have to take it very seriously,” Brailsford said.

“I know how much work the race organisers have put into security, but some of the fans are behaving the way they are because what they believe is a long way from the truth.”

He was speaking after Sky’s Luke Rowe had earlier snatched a protester’s banner which read: “Sky – Go home.”

The protester, local resident Didier Bregardes, told reporters he was unhappy with the way Sky had handled the doping allegations.

Rowe, though, played down the altercation, saying it was “light-hearted and no big deal” and that he had been laughing and joking with the man.

“Does this pantomime have a darker side to it? That’s a fair comment because a lot of people who chuckle and join in, but there are definitely people out there for whom this is not pantomime in the humorous context,” Brailsford added.

It came on the day the World Anti-Doping Agency issued a statement about the Froome case to “clarify elements that have been subject to much speculation and misinformation”.

Stage five result

1. Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe) 4hrs 48mins 6sec

2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita/Bahrain – Merida) same time

3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Quick-Step Floors)

4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar)

5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Quick-Step Floors)

6. Daniel Martin (Ire/UAE Team Emirates)

7. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing)

8. Soren Kragh (Den/Sunweb)

9. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita/Wanty – Groupe Gobert)

10. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain – Merida)

General classification after stage five

1. Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing) 13hrs 33mins 56secs

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

3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Quick-Step Floors) +3secs

4. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) +5secs

5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Quick-Step Floors) +6secs

6. Bob Jungels (Lux/Quick-Step Floors) +9secs

7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Sunweb) +13secs

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

9. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Education First) +37secs

10. Rafal Majka (Pol/Bora – Hansgrohe) +52secs

Selected:

15. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +57secs

16. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +1min 2secs

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/44798610

Gaviria takes second Tour stage win in thrilling sprint finish

Gaviria (right) timed his sprint expertly but still had to re-take the lead just metres from the line

Fernando Gaviria (right) had to kick twice to deny Andre Greipel (centre) and Peter Sagan (left)

Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria held off Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel in a thrilling sprint finish to win stage four of the Tour de France in Sarzeau.

The Quick-Step Floors rider, who also won the Tour’s first stage, had to kick twice to deny Greipel after the German edged in front close to the line.

Sagan nipped in for second as Greipel faded after the peloton finally caught a four-man breakaway with 1km to go.

BMC Racing’s Greg van Avermaet retained the leader’s yellow jersey.

The Belgian, who took the overall lead on Monday, avoided a crash that split the peloton with 5km to go.

His team-mate Tejay van Garderen is second in the general classification, with Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas three seconds back in third.

Four-time winner Chris Froome finished safely in the bunch to remain 52 seconds further adrift, although he moved up one position to 17th, one place ahead of fellow Briton Adam Yates, after Katusha-Alpecin’s Ilnur Zakarin was caught behind the late crash.

“It was another stressful day and another big crash which only adds to the stress,” Thomas told BBC Radio 5 live.

“It was nice to get through unscathed. I felt pretty good but we will get more of a sense on Wednesday where we will get the first solid day.”

Mark Cavendish was caught out of position in the final stages and unable to contest the sprint.

Gav the new Cav?

Gaviria continues to make one of the most assured Tour debuts by a sprinter – he has won two of four stages, including taking the first yellow jersey of the race.

After a period in which Grand Tour sprints were dominated by Cavendish, Greipel and latterly Marcel Kittel, the 23-year-old’s performances so far suggest he is capable of supremacy.

This was more impressive than his opening stage win, taking the sprint out but still finding the power to kick again as Greipel threatened to blitz past.

With Gaviria also benefiting from the strength of his Quick-Step team, his early success here is reminiscent of how Cavendish, then also 23, announced himself with four stage wins at the 2008 Tour.

And with potentially five more sprint finishes to come, the other sprinters in the race face a daunting task to deny Gaviria more glory.

And what about Cav?

In contrast to Gaviria, Cavendish has looked short of form and confidence as he tries to add to his 30 stage wins in pursuit of Eddy Merckx’s record of 34.

The Briton did not feature on the opening two stages, when he or his Dimension Data team-mates got caught up in late crashes, but still could not contend despite avoiding the chaos here.

With the four-man breakaway – Dimitri Claeys, Anthony Perez, Guillaume van Keirsbulck and Jerome Cousin – threatening to outwit the peloton, Cavendish’s team took responsibility on the front to make the catch and lead the race on the left of a long drag to the finish.

But Cavendish soon found himself swamped and without a team-mate to follow as the race splintered in the final 500m, outflanked on the left by Quick-Step’s lead-out train and then ultimately cut off by Dylan Groenewegen.

Cavendish threw his hand up in protest at the Dutchman, but the leading trio had already surged well clear.

“I was pushed off [lead-out man] Mark Renshaw’s wheel and, in that block headwind, once you’re not on a wheel you have to put in double the watts,” Cavendish told ITV4.

“I thought the left side would be close but then it opened up and Quick-Step went through and I ended up blocked by my own lead-out man effectively, but it was my fault – I shouldn’t have been there.”

The hills arrive on stage five

Wednesday’s fifth stage is the first hilly one of the race as riders tackle five categorised climbs over 204km from Lorient to Quimper.

In his stage-by-stage guide for BBC Sport, Cavendish said: “Although we don’t go to high altitude, the actual climbing kilometres will add up quickly because it is up and down all day on small roads with loads of lefts and rights.

“It will be important to stay near the front and keep your team around you. I don’t see a massive group coming in together in Quimper but it will be a group of one-day classics specialists and I expect to see something between Van Avermaet, Sagan and Michael Matthews.”

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Stage four result

1. Fernando Gaviria (Col/Quick-Step Floors) 4hrs 25mins 1sec

2. Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe) same time

3. Andre Greipel (Ger/Lotto-Soudal)

4. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo)

5. Marcel Kittel (Ger/Katusha-Alpecin)

6. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita/Wanty-Groupe Gobert)

7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/UAE Team Emirates)

8. John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo)

9. Dion Smith (NZ/Wanty-Groupe Gobert)

10. Timothy Dupont (Bel/Wanty-Groupe Gobert)

General classification after stage four

1. Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing) 13hrs 33mins 56secs

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. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Quick-Step Floors) +7secs

6. Bob Jungels (Lux/Quick-Step Floors) same time

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

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

9. Michael Matthews (Aus/Sunweb)

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

Selected:

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

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

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/44784290

Van Avermaet leads Tour after BMC stage win

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?

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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.”

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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

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/44770982

Sagan wins stage two to take Tour de France lead

Peter Sagan wins stage two from Sonny Colbrelli

Sagan (left) held on to win his ninth Tour de France stage from Colbrelli

World champion Peter Sagan won stage two of the Tour de France to take the overall race lead.

The Slovak surged past French hope Arnaud Demare on the slight incline to the finish and held off the fast-finishing Italian Sonny Colbrelli.

Sagan takes the yellow jersey from stage-one winner Fernando Gaviria, who was unable to contest the sprint after being held up by a late crash.

Defending champion Chris Froome avoided the pile-up to finish in the peloton.

After his crash on stage one, Froome will be happy to get through stage two unscathed and his Team Sky team-mates worked hard in the closing kilometres to keep him up near the front of the race and out of danger.

His team-mate Geraint Thomas is the highest-placed British rider, in seventh, 15 seconds adrift of Sagan. Thomas, who says he is being given a freer role by Team Sky in the opening week, could find himself in the yellow jersey after Monday’s third stage, which is a 35.5km team time trial.

He said: “We’re communicating well and riding well – the guys are doing well for me and Froome.

“We’ll try to get the stage win first in the team time trial and then if we do end up in yellow that would be a nice bonus.”

Four-time winner Froome is one minute seven seconds down on Sagan, as are rivals Richie Porte and Adam Yates, who crashed again on stage two but was able to recover quickly.

They remain 51 seconds down on the other main contenders Romain Bardet, Tom Dumoulin, Mikel Landa, Vincenzo Nibali and Rigoberto Uran.

British sprinter Mark Cavendish was caught behind the late crash, ensuring the Dimension Data rider was again unable to contest the finale.

Super Sagan strikes again

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Sagan has now won nine stages at the Tour de France

Bora-Hansgrohe rider Sagan provided yet another reminder of his supreme all-round talents in securing his ninth Tour de France stage victory after a 182.5km race to La Roche-sur-Yon in the Vendee.

The 2018 Paris-Roubaix winner showed great positional sense and bike-handling to ensure he was not caught up in the crash on a right-hand bend inside the final two kilometres before kicking clear of his rivals on the uphill drag to the finish.

He also claimed 17 points for second place at the intermediate sprint, behind solo breakaway rider Sylvain Chavanel, to establish a 26-point lead over Gaviria in the green jersey points classification.

With Sagan also able to contest stages over hilly terrain, it is already looking very difficult for any rider to deny him a record-equalling sixth green jersey, tying the mark of former German sprinter Erik Zabel.

“I have to say a big thanks to all my team-mates because they were at the front for the last 30km – in the end I expected something easier but it was really tough,” said Sagan.

However, he added that he would be in yellow “just for one day” as he expects to lose the race lead in Monday’s team time trial.

Before the race came back together with around 14km of the stage remaining, French veteran Chavanel had spent nearly 140km out front by himself after early breakaway partners Michael Gogl and Dion Smith, who claimed the polka dot climbers jersey, dropped back following the day’s sole climb.

The 39-year-old, who rides for Vendee-based Direct Energie, is competing in a record 18th Tour de France and was given a rapturous reception throughout his solo effort.

Monday’s stage three is a 35.5km team time trial circuit around Cholet, with the time for each team taken from the fourth rider across the line.

In his stage-by-stage guide for BBC Sport, Mark Cavendish said: “It’s open roads and it’s relatively straightforward but that means horse power is needed. My Dimension Data team will be trying to save energy for upcoming stages. We know we’re not really in with a chance of winning but we’ll give it our best shot.”

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Stage two result

1. Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe) 4hrs 6mins 37secs

2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita/Bahrain-Merida) same time

3. Arnaud Demare (Fra/Groupama-FDJ)

4. Andre Greipel (Ger/Lotto Soudal)

5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/UAE Team Emirates)

6. Timothy Dupont (Bel/Wanty-Groupe Gobert)

7. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar)

8. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita/Wanty-Groupe Gobert)

9. John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo)

10. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Quick-Step Floors)

General classification after stage two

1. Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe) 8hrs 29mins 53secs

2. Fernando Gaviria (Col/Quick-Step Floors) +6secs

3. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita/Bahrain-Merida) +10secs

4. Marcel Kittel (Ger/Katusha-Alpecin) +12secs

5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra/Direct Energie) +13secs

6. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Quick-Step Floors) +14secs

7. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) +15secs

8. Oliver Naesen (Bel/AG2R La Mondiale) same time

9. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/UAE Team Emirates) +16secs

10. John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo) same time

Selected:

81. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +1min 7secs

84. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) same time

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/44758469

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