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Sky are among the favourites for Monday's 35.5km team time trial around Cholet.

"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.

"I'm only some 20 seconds behind Froome so it's not that much".

World champion Peter Sagan won stage two of the Tour de France to take the yellow jersey as Chris Froome did a better job of staying out of trouble on another crash-strewn finale.

Van Avermaet, who excels at single-day classics, isn't a threat for the overall title but he could keep the lead through the cobblestoned Stage 9 ending in Roubaix.

And, despite the case creating a storm ahead of the Tour de France, Wiggins, who won the race in 2012, believes Froome can still clinch a fifth crown. "I think I am in good condition and I have a good team around me but there are no doubts that this is the most important test of the season for me".

"The only thing I can really understand from it was that Chris didn't even go to the adverse analytical finding, it didn't even get to that stage, he was asked to explain himself which he got given due process to do and he was cleared by the people that run the sport and doping agency and that's all we really know".

"It's a ideal day, I was a bit scared because Sonny was coming back strong", said Sagan, who also wore the yellow jersey in 2016. "That's the nature of the game".

Mark Cavendish, victor of a record 30 Tour de France stages, and Sagan, who was gunning for a sixth green jersey, both left the Tour after a notorious incident where the Slovak was thrown out of the race after being ruled guilty of the Briton's Tour ending date with the tarmac.

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It will be van Avermaet's second stint in yellow after three days in the maillot jaune during the 2016 Tour de France.

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

The other members of BMC are Patrick Bevin, Damiano Caruso, Simon Gerrans, Stefan Kung and Michael Schar.

The stage was seen as an opportunity for Froome to make up some of the time lost on Saturday, but victory now could give Thomas another spell in yellow after he enjoyed his first during the opening week of last year's Tour.

"Today, we just handled business", said Van Garderen, who has twice finished in the top five at the Tour but is riding this edition in a declared supporting role for Porte. The Frenchman got warmly welcomed by the people on the sides of the road and got an advantage of more than four minutes with the peloton.

"We have to just deal with it, that's all. I have my chances to win tomorrow too and also at the Roubaix", said Van Avermaet.

Tuesday's fourth stage takes the riders from La Baule to Sarzeau over a largely flat 195km course.

The only individual time trial of the race comes in the penultimate stage, over a 31-kilometer route from Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle to Espelette in the Basque country.


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