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

The Tour remains in the Vendee region for Stage 2 today, another flat leg of 113.4 miles from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to the department capital of La Roche-sur-Yon. "It was a mess".

Froome is aiming to join Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain as the only riders to win the Tour five times.

Dutchman Dumoulin was more than happy with the way the third stage panned out after moving up to seventh in the early GC standings, just 11 seconds back from the new leader.

But Gaviria was involved in a group pileup inside the 3-kilometer zone that neutralizes the impact of accidents and could do nothing to stop Sagan from claiming a six-second overall lead and the yellow jersey. With Sonny Colbrelli about to catch him, Sagan thrust forward to ensure victory.

Nearly too predictably, a right-hander of 90 degrees-plus two kilometres from the finish had its say as a touch of wheels sent several riders - including stage one victor Fernando Gaviria - crashing to the floor.

BORA-hansgrohe finished their run last with Peter Sagan surrendering the leader's jersey to van Avermaet, swapping yellow his his ultimate target of green.

"We have to respect that he's allowed to race, and within a safe environment, and he's had all kinds of abuse at the moment and no athlete should have to go ride under that and have their safety questioned at the sport's biggest event".

While Sky's top placed rider is Geraint Thomas three seconds off the lead, 2017 Giro victor Dumoulin is just 11 seconds down, but perhaps Bardet is the man with the most to smile about at this stage.

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Froome, who fell into a ditch near the end of Saturday's opening stage, arrived safely with most of the peloton. Despite being cleared of doping allegations on Monday, some skeptical fans have jeered the Kenyan-born British rider since his Sky team arrived in France.

The latter's hopes of reclaiming the maillot jaune took an early hit, however, as he lost contact with the back of the Quick-Step train and the team split apart early in the stage. The 22.1-mile loop starts and finishes in Cholet.

He said he was "really happy" with Monday's time trial.

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 smiley Australian Michael Matthews proved his steely nerves and won it in 2017, but has said this year he feels a little more reticent after his first baby.

"I don't think it is a bad thing to have the yellow jersey for a team looking for a sponsor", said Porte, who crashed out of last year's Tour and lost time in Stage 1 of this edition. He was absorbed by the peloton with eight miles left. Tsgabu Grmay of Ethiopia also retired. "I have my chances to win tomorrow too and also at the Roubaix", said Van Avermaet.

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