This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Team Sky stamped their authority on the Tour de France with a commanding display in the 41.5-kilometre time trial to Besançon. Race leader Bradley Wiggins won in a time of 51:24 with teammate Chris Froome in second at 35 seconds. The result moved Froome up to third in the general classification and strengthened Wiggins’s grip on yellow.
Defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC) lost time at each time check point before finishing 6th, 1:43 behind Wiggins. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), who started the day in third place overall, managed to limit his losses, finishing in 8th, 2:07 down on Wiggins, and now lies 4th in the race for yellow.
"I'm just really pleased with how I put the day together, mentally, too. The noise when I rolled off the ramp was incredible and not letting that phase me and not going out too hard. So I’m just really satisfied with how I put the whole day together an that’s what I’ve been focusing ,. So at the moment it’s just relief and pride in myself for doing that," Wiggins said.
"When I get back tonight, that when you start thinking about the context of how it fits into the whole Tour and everything. Numbers are being thrown around, you got this on Cadel, this on him but at the moment it’s a lot to take in."
Tour de France stage 9 highlights (courtesy ASO)
Heading into the stage BMC had hoped to limit their losses to less than a minute but after just a few kilometres of Evans’s ride Wiggins was up on the 2011 winner. At the first time check, 16.5km into the stage, Wiggins cruised through at a time of 21:05, five seconds up on Froome but already over a minute up on Evans. The Sky pair obliterated the time of Fabian Cancellara and from there Evans began a campaign of damage limitation.
At the second time check at 31.5 kilometres it looked to be working with Wiggins only adding 19 seconds to his time on the Australian but by the finish the British rider had extended his lead to 1:43, the exact time gap between the two riders posted at last month’s Dauphine.
Earlier in the day, world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) cut a sorry figure on the start ramp in Arc-et-Senans. With a wrist strapped due to a broken bone the German was perhaps riding his last stage in this year’s Tour but his luck, which as deserted him throughout the race, was in no mood of changing, and within the first few kilometres suffered a puncture. Despite the misfortune Martin posted the fastest time at each check point to take an early but incomprehensive lead.
Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) put Martin out of his misery setting a time 39 seconds faster at the first check, and 1:19 quicker at the finish. However, when French time trial champion Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) came through the first check just a handful of seconds down on the Swiss rider, it was clear that the former world time trial champion was far from firing on all cylinders.
Fabian Cancellara crosses for third
It wasn’t until Tejay van Garderen (BMC) came through the first check three seconds faster that it was confirmed that Cancellara would not repeat his prologue success. The American, riding in just his second Tour, looked at ease over the testing first part of the course, catching Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) for three minutes and going fastest at the second check. Although he tired by the finish, crossing the line nine seconds down on Cancellara, the RadioShack-Nissan rider’s position was in the line of fire.
By now the GC contenders, Froome included in that echelon, were on the road. The Kenyan-born rider, who beat Wiggins in an individual time trial at the Vuelta last September, stormed to a 24-second lead at the first check. Denis Menchov (Katusha), in his Russian national time trial champion's kit, could only manage 7th with Nibali in 10th and Evans 12th. Wiggins was still to reach the 16.5km mark but his rhythm and speed looked on course, and he crossed the check point five seconds faster than Froome.
Wiggins on winning stage 9
Sky’s Froome was looking almost as assured as Wiggins in his time trial position, out of the saddle on the rolling terrain, and faster than Van Garderen at the second check point. Wiggins came in 16 seconds faster than Froome, cementing his position as Sky’s undoubted leader in the race.
Menchov crossed the line, then Nibali, but both were off the pace and looking set to lose over two minutes. Froome meanwhile had crushed Cancellara by 22 seconds with just Evans and Wiggins left on the road.
Having gained 35 seconds on Froome, 1:43 on Evans and over 2 minutes on his nearest rival Wiggins will be greatly satisfied with his day and tomorrow’s rest day will give the British rider time to let the events sink in. The Tour is far from over but Wiggins has landed a heavy blow.
Froome on Team Sky's position heading into the first rest day