CHRIS Froome and Team Sky will be hoping for a drama-free stage three of the Tour de France into London today after passing the toughest challenge of the British Grand Depart with flying colours.

Froome ended the rolling 201km stage two from York to Sheffield ideally placed in fifth overall, just two seconds off the pace but with Vincenzo Nibali shouldering the burden of defending the yellow jersey just two stages into the 21-stage Tour.

"You could see in the final run a lot of the contenders were making a move and Nibali ended up taking two seconds on us," Froome said.

"It's a small margin but it puts him into the yellow jersey so it's definitely means it's going to be an exciting next week of racing to come."

With a tough stage boasting nine categorised climbs in the rear view mirror, Monday's flat run from Cambridge to London will simply be a day of avoiding trouble for Froome and his team.

"That was a really, really tricky stage and we're glad to see the back of it," said team principal Sir Dave Brailsford, thoughts later echoed by Froome.

"Big relief to have Stage 2 behind us without any major issues," he wrote on Twitter. "Racing down into London tomorrow is going to be massive."

Sky will be flying the flag for British cycling in the absence of sprinter Mark Cavendish, denied the chance to race on the roads surrounding his Essex home after being forced to withdraw from the Tour on Sunday morning.

The 29-year-old Manxman may yet require surgery on the shoulder injury he suffered in an opening-stage crash in Harrogate, leaving his participation in the Commonweath Games in question.

But Cavendish's absence did not dampen the mood of another huge crowd lining the roads of Yorkshire, with Tour organisers claiming more than 2.5 million had turned out on Sunday, and five million over the two days in Yorkshire.

They are now hoping for a similar turnout in the south east as British cycling fans show the world how far the sport has come in this country.

"The crowds were amazing," Brailsford added. "There was an unbelievable amount of people come out to watch the race today and they've done our country proud and they've done Yorkshire proud. It was a privilege to race in front of them.

"British people are fantastic at supporting sport and now we've shown we know how to support cycling as well as football, cricket and rugby."

Both Froome and team-mate Geraint Thomas spoke of feeling goosebumps amid the atmosphere on the main climb up Holme Moss, and Thomas is looking forward to one more day in front of a home crowd.

"It's the last day to really soak up the atmosphere," he said. "At least the years will have a rest come Tuesday."