Froome and Quintana struggle in opening Tour de France stage

This July 4 crash resulted in both Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan exiting the Tour de France

This July 4 crash resulted in both Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan exiting the Tour de France

And though Van Avermaet's BMC squad pipped Sky to victory by four seconds - denying Thomas yellow by just three seconds - Sky did enough to put four-time victor Froome firmly back in the general classification mix.

The result saw Bevin's BMC Racing team-mate Greg Van Avermaet take the yellow jersey, while the team's designated leader Richie Porte, who lost 51 seconds on the opening stage, is now up to 14th on the general classification.

BMC Racing were four seconds quicker than their nearest rivals, Team Sky, in the stage three team time trial.

Martin fractured two vertebrae on stage nine of last year's race, but still managed to challenge in the overall.

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.

Among the big losers today were Nairo Quintana, whose Movistar team came home 53 seconds down on BMC Racing, Bahrain-Merida with 2014 Tour de France victor Vincenzo Nibali, 1 minute and 6 seconds down, and Romain Bardet's AG2R-La Mondiale, who came home 1 minute 15 seconds behind the day's victor.

He told ITV4: "We did an awesome job, the boys were wonderful and a year ago at the team time trial at the Worlds no one suited up as the strongest and there was not much difference between everyone again today and that's exactly what you want".

It was also a very satisfying day for Froome, the Kenyan-born Briton ignoring some booing at the start line and making up some of the valuable time he lost on Saturday's first stage.

"It's amusing because at the end of the day it's just another bike race".

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Two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana is 1:31 back after he lost time following the puncture of both his tires near the end of Stage 1.

"The yellow jersey is one that everyone dreams of wearing and to get it on the first day is awesome", said Gaviria, who was making his debut in cycling's most prestigious race. "I'm just happy I can be in the Tour de France, the biggest race in the world".

The Team Sky rider, who was cleared of doping in an asthma drug case on Monday, was also jeered at Thursday's team presentations.

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.

"There was way too much wind for me", said the slightly-built Porte. To win with these guys is a great feeling.

"To be honest I didn't even think about it (the yellow jersey), it was just about winning the stage". I think there will be a lot more time lost throughout the GC group before we hit the mountains. We've been close in the past in Tour team time trials.

Mark Cavendish's hopes of a 31st career Tour stage win were also scuppered by the incident but the Dimension Data rider stayed upright.

"A team time trial is always a something special when the whole team makes efforts for the same goal", Van Avermaet said.

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