Tour de France: Chris Froome gains on rivals as jeering fades

Peter Sagan is happy to be back at the Tour after being kicked out early in 2017

Peter Sagan is happy to be back at the Tour after being kicked out early in 2017

"It's reassuring to take back some time".

For Porte, the stage win took on special significance as it marked a year since he crashed out of last year's Tour on the decent into Chambery on the ninth stage.

While others were left to pick their way through the chaos, Sagan was in the bunch that got through cleanly, and victory was enough for yellow following his second place on Saturday.

"I feel maybe even better (than last year)", Porte said.

"Just going on the feeling, I think we can be pretty happy", Froome said.

Marcel Kittel, victor of five stages in last year's Tour, saw his hopes of contesting the sprint effectively ended by a flat rear tyre with 7.5km to go, but the bigger incident was still to come. He was also in yellow in three stages at Tour de France two years ago.

Peter Sagan, the leader following stage two, was dropped by his Bora-Hansgrohe team-mates but it is stage victories and the points classification jersey that are in his sights.

"It's part of the game unfortunately", said Froome, who went down with about 3 miles to go as the sprinters' teams jockeyed for position.

"What's most important is that we stay positive and enjoy the challenge". "Everything turned out ideal".

Vincenzo Nibali was another to have to put in a big shift for his team, and by extension his own GC hopes - with Bahrain-Merida down to four riders with a quarter of the 35.5km stage still to go.

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"It was really a hard sprint".

"It was a mess over those last five kilometres all up and down and then going up the hill there was a headwind", he said. "I was a bit scared because Sonny was coming back strong".

Sagan won the mostly flat 182.5-kilometre (113.4-mile) leg from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to the department capital of La Roche-sur-Yon in 4 hours, 6 minutes, 37 seconds.

Few could have predicted the wild final run into Fontenay on Saturday which left four-time champion Froome, who fell into a ditch, and other favorites Richie Porte and Adam Yates trailing stage victor Fernando Gaviria in the overall standings by 1 min and 1 sec.

"We knew that Team Sky would be the team to beat and we also knew that it would be close".

Movistar lost 53 seconds, which leaves Colombian Nairo Quintana, twice runner-up, 1:13 behind Froome - a massive amount of time after only three days of racing.

After the first stage that hugged the Atlantic coast, the race rolled inland through green pastures, forest groves and yellow wheat fields baked by the summer sun. The racing day started with the escape of Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo) and Dion Smith, who built a gap of more than two minutes with the peloton.

Ethiopia's Tsgabu Grmay became the first rider to abandon the race. "Our team is our strength", said Bardet.

The British squad were also early starters after crashes in Stage 1 set them back.

The three-week Tour ends July 29 in Paris.

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