Tour de France favourite Alberto Contador suffered a small setback as he continues to finetune his yellow jersey bid with a sixth place finish in the Dauphine time trial on Wednesday.
Contador, third overall in this key Tour de France warm-up event in 2009, came into this year's edition aiming to perfect his time trialling on a new bike ahead of targeting a third yellow jersey in July. But despite winning the opening prologue on Sunday, the 27-year-old Spaniard was upstaged on Wednesday by one of Lance Armstrong's RadioShack teammates - Slovenian Janez Brajkovic.
Brajkovic, a former world under-23 time trial champion, flew over the first half of the course despite a headwind and had to change his bike at the top of the stage's only climb because of a broken aerobar. He put that setback behind him to fly down the remainder of the course with a tailwind helping push him over the finish line in a time of 1hr 01min 54sec which left Britain's David Millar in second at 26sec.
Garmin-Transitions rider Millar is now second overall at 36, with Contador slipping three places to fourth at 1:41.
"I hoped to finish in the top five, but I really didn't expect to win, so I'm really happy," said Brajkovic. "I had to change my bike at the top of the climb because one of the bars was broken, and I didn't really want to risk having another one of our team involved in an accident before the Tour de France.
"It's a great day for me and for the RadioShack team."
RadioShack suffered a blow on the opening stage when experienced climbing specialist Haimar Zubeldia crashed out with a fractured bone in his wrist. Ironically, Brajkovic could be guaranteed a place on the Tour if the Spanish veteran fails to recover in time.
Brajkovic topped the times at the first checkpoint after 15.5km where Contador, last to start from the field, was trailing by 32sec.
The Spaniard said it was seeing that significant deficit to Brajkovic that prompted him to take his foot off the gas for fear of crashing.
"I was pushing it really hard but once I saw by how much I was trailing I decided I wasn't going to take risks trying to go for the win. Some of the corners were quite dangerous," said the Spaniard.
Millar was disappointed to miss out on victory, however the big Scot was happy with his performance - especially as he had no radio contact with his team car, and narrowly avoided crashing twice on tight corners.
"The (earpiece) radio wasn't working and so I got a bit complacent and was taking too many risks on some of the corners," he told AFP.
"I came flying into one corner where there was a big ravine on one side and came this close," said Millar holding his fingers together, "to crashing over the wall. There was another corner further where I lost some time as well. If I've lost by five or ten seconds, then it's probably down to those corners."
Millar admitted the strong headwind in the first half of the course, coupled with a less than perfect road surface, left him feeling like he was going nowhere.
"It was horrible. Because the road (condition) was so bad it was riding the cobblestones. I just felt like I was standing still, especially on the climb. I only realised I wasn't doing so badly when some French guy at the side of the road said, 'God, he's really flying'."
Thursday's fourth stage in this key Tour de France warm-up event is a steadily rising 210.5km ride from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to the summit of Risoul.
© AFP 2010
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