Sagan wins Stage 2 of Tour de France to take early lead

Sagan wins Stage 2 of Tour de France to take early lead

What had once been viewed as an opportunity to make time had become a chance to gain it back after Froome's excursion into a field on Saturday cost him 51 seconds on his main rivals.

"This isn't the first time I've been a minute down or had to dig in, it's just racing, that's what we're here for", he said at the starting line. "We gave it everything we had and it all went pretty much to plan".

"It's a dream. We rode a good time trial and the whole team worked hard", said Van Avermaet.

Lawson Craddock, one of five Americans in the race, crashed in a feeding zone midway through the stage and continued with blood streaming down his face.

The event returned for the first time since 2015, and time trial specialists BMC took full advantage as they set a time of 38 minutes, 46 seconds on the 35.5-kilometre course that started and ended in the town of Cholet in the Pays de la Loire region of France.

Froome, fellow Briton Adam Yates and Australian Richie Porte, all pre-Tour favourites, all lost valuable seconds having been caught in a series of falls and flat tyres over the final 10km of the 201km opening stage. "I love France and the Tour, which is the most lovely race on the planet".

"It's about what I expected, we thought we'd lose a bit to Froome and we lost a bit to Froome", said the dry-witted Quintana.

"This is one stage where you have to push to the limit more than ever, but if you misgauge your effort you pay for it massively. That's the nature of the game".

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The Solvakian's Bora Hansgrohe team finished in seventh spot, 50 seconds down on the stage winners, but he will wear the green jersey on stage four. Obviously this is an incredibly important race, but it's you guys who put the pressure on us!

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.

A leaked dope test signalling too much salbutamol last September - but which anti-doping authorities WADA dismissed - has made Froome a target as he and Team Sky in their white team shirts progress along the 21-day course.

"Fernando won yesterday and now I'm the one with the yellow jersey", it's been exciting.

Froome however was roundly booed on his first meeting with the French public on Thursday when Sky took the stage for the official teams presntation here, and during a 1km jaunt around the small town of La Roche-sur-Yon.

"Obviously it was a tough one today but the big strong guys did a great job and it was a ideal team time trial", Porte told Cycling.com. That would have been a nice bonus on top. "We were close but not quite quick enough".

Mark Cavendish's hopes of a 31st career Tour stage win were also scuppered by the incident but the Dimension Data rider stayed upright. He was also part of the team that won the team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico.

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