Sky Delivers One-Two Punch in ITT
Team Sky has tightened its grip in the Tour de France.
Team Sky has tightened its grip on the Tour de France. Maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins (Sky) has won Stage 9, a flat, 41.5-km individual time trial from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon. The Briton dominated the stage, leading at every time check en route to victory in 51:24. Teammate Chris Froome finished second at 0:35, and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) took third at 0:57. Wiggins has extended his overall lead over defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC).
Gustav Erik Larsson (Vacansoleil-DCM) set the early standard with a 54:19. Another Vacansoleil-DCM rider, Lieuwe Westra, bettered Larsson's time by 0:10. Then, world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) riding with a broken wrist, posted a 53:40 despite his injury and a puncture. The German set the fastest time at each checkpoint.
Cancellara eclipsed Martin's mark. The four-time world time trial champion was the fastest rider at each time check en route to a 52:21. Given Spartacus's record and the fact that he had bettered Martin's time by 1:09, this time looked like it could be a winner.
One rider did challenge Cancellara before Wiggins and Froome, however. That rider was Tejay van Garderen (BMC). Evans's teammate led Cancellara at the first two checkpoints before slowing and finishing second by 0:09. The American admitted that he surprised himself.
"We talked mainly about not taking risks," van Garderen said of his pre-stage discussion with team captain Evans. "I told him I'd go hard but try to keep it a regular tempo to not go too over the edge. I had to promise Cadel I wouldn't crash. It wasn't until the second half that I really started to ramp it up."
Froome stormed out of the start ramp. The Briton led van Garderen by 0:24 at the first checkpoint and kept his lead at the second. He posted a 51:59 to knock Cancellara to the no. 2 position on the leaderboard. Behind, the battle for the yellow jersey took place.
Evans started three minutes before Wiggins. The Australian was attempting to limit his losses, but at the first time check, he trailed Wiggins by more than a minute. (Wiggins led Froome by 0:05.) At the second time check, Evans appeared to have done well, limiting his loss to the Briton to 1:19, but Wiggins poured on the coal, putting another 0:24 into the defending champion and snatching the stage win. Evans would settle for sixth at 1:43.
Wiggins's victory overwhelmed him. He said, "I just go out there and concentrate myself on doing the ride. It's all still a bit of a haze. I've won the stage, which is almost forgotten about as it was all about the GC and the battle--watching for Cadel, Vincenzo, and those guys.
"I'm just really pleased with the way I put the ride together and mentally the way I put the day together. The noise when I rolled off the ramp was incredible and not letting that faze me in terms of going off too hard. At the moment, it's just relief, and I'm proud of myself for doing that."
BMC was in a regrouping mode, but there was no sign of panic. "In comparison to the other time trialists like Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin and so on, it seems as if I wasn't so far off the mark," Evans said. "But Sky had two very, very strong riders today. We'll reassess the situation day by day, and of course we don't give up, that's for sure. There's still a lot more racing until Paris."
BMC directeur sportif John Lelangue sounded a similar note. "We just considered it a normal time trial and did our own race," he said. "Two minutes, two weeks--we have time."
In the overall, Wiggins leads Evans by 1:53 and Froome by 2:07. Tomorrow is the 2012 Tour's first rest day. On Wednesday, Stage 10 will take the riders 194.5 km from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. The stage will have three categorized climbs--the Category 2 Cote de Corlier at 90 km, the hors categorie Col du Grand Colombier at 151.5 km, and the Category 3 Col de Richemond at 174 km. The stage seems tailor-made for an escape by a group of no-hope climbers. Who will the fugitives be? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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