FDJ were the first to start, in what was a slightly ill-advised startlist, considering that the world champions BMC were third to go off, and teams like IAM and Lampre, not noted for their TTT excellence, were near the end.
The stage was slightly uphill, and Astana, pushing hard for Vincenzo Nibali, were already dropping riders within the first five kilometres. Dmitry Gruzdev, one of their bigger engines, was already out the back.
Coverage was mainly focused on Astana and Movistar, so we never saw any of the first three teams cross the intermediate sprint point, with Giant beating FDJ and BMC taking 45 seconds out of Giant's pile of mediocrity and that time withstood the pace of Astana, beating the Kazakh outfit by 4 seconds at the halfway mark.
Tony Martin's strength was
pulling dragging Etixx along, but too powerfully, dropping Martin Velits and Niki Terpstra early, and Thibaut Pinot might have been regretting his team, as FDJ crossed the finish line, looking ragged and with a slow time, 31'34".
Movistar went into third in at the intermediate, 14 seconds down as BMC set a challenging time at the finish, a 29:58. Orica started. Etixx went 11" down on BMC at the split. Astana just missed out on the lead, finishing 3 seconds behind the Americans. As did Movistar, this time just 5" down. Then Etixx were slightly slower than might have been expected, finishing seventeen seconds behind.
Orica set an unusually poor time for their high standards, 23 seconds down on BMC. Sky were looking strong - at least the riders who weren't getting dropped. They lost three riders early on, and were close to being down to five as Nicolas Roche struggled. But he wasn't the next to get dropped as they had the minimum just after going through the intermediate 17 second down, as Luke Rowe fell back.
Tinkoff-Saxo, riding a pretty aimless Dauphiné, finished a minute and half behind, as it looked like BMC had it sewn up. Talansky's team Cannondale-Garmin were also down to five and they came in 42 seconds behind.
Roche was dying now for Sky, on the back, not taking a turn, and opening and closing the gap with the effort of staying with his team mates, with Froome putting serious pressure on. However, he made it, and Sky finished just half a minute down in sixth.
BMC won the day, and Rohan Dennis took yellow, but the real beneficiaries were Van Garderen, Nibali and Valverde, who all have over thirty seconds on Froome and Talansky.
Yellow: Rohan Dennis
Green: Nacer Bouhanni
Red-white: Daniel Teklehaimanot
White: Rohan Dennis
Tomorrow's stage 4, or the "get a move on, the mountains are tomorrow" stage, is probably the easiest stage of the week, with only three categorised climbs, an early cat. 3 and a cat. 4, with a small cat. 4 twelve and a half kilometres from the line, the same distance as the final categorised climb on stage 1. However, there's another bump directly after it, but it is uncategorised and the last ten kilometres are flat. This should go to a sprinter, and there's only one name that stands out. Nacer Bouhanni.