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Orica-GreenEdge blazed through the team time trial course at the Tour de France on Tuesday to win stage 4.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step took the lead early, as it was the second team to start the stage. Orica was the 18th of 22 teams to start, and it practically melted the road over the final kilometer of the 25km route to lower Omega Pharma’s leading time by less than a second.
Omega Pharma’s time held on for second place, while third went to Sky.
Orica’s Simon Gerrans, who won stage 3 in a sprint over Peter Sagan (Cannondale), is now the race leader. Daryl Impey (Orica) and Michael Albasini (Orica) are second and third.
“We were not the favorites for the stage, but we did a great work among the team,” Gerrans said. “It’s a great victory for the team today.”
Overnight leader Jan Bakelants ceded the yellow jersey after his RadioShack-Leopard team lost 29 seconds, finishing 11th. The Belgian is now 32nd overall.
Close for Omega Pharma
Omega Pharma flew along the course and as each team finished, it looked more and more likely that the reigning world champion squad was going to win the stage. Top challengers Garmin-Sharp (sixth) and Saxo-Tinkoff (fourth) threatened but did not lower the time.
Sky, on the other hand, was a surprise third-place finisher. Geraint Thomas is riding with a fractured pelvis and it was not clear how the team would perform. Thomas powered through the stage, only coming unhitched at the 1km kite.
Still, Omega Pharma had the lead with just five teams left on the course.
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma), the two-time defending world time trial champion, said his squad lost a few costly seconds along the course that ultimately cost it the victory — and, most likely, Michal Kwiatkowski the yellow jersey.
“We weren’t sure about the time gaps, but now we see we lost a few seconds here and there,” Martin said. “Given all the problems we’ve had, and mine particularly, I think we can be happy. I’m not sleeping well, but I’m sure it will get better in the coming days.”
Garmin, BMC Racing not satisfied
Garmin was the talk of the day leading up to the stage, but it was unable to ride to victory. David Millar entered the stage in position to nab yellow, should the team win its second team time trial at the Tour.
“It’s disappointing because it was a big objective,” said Millar. “I wasn’t on my best today. The other guys were great. Maybe it was those few seconds I lost that made the difference. Martin was impressive. Omega was very strong.”
The race resumes with Wednesday’s 228.5km stage 5, a bumpy route from Cagnes-Sur-Mer to Marseille.
Garmin wasn’t the only American team disappointed in the team effort. Cadel Evans lamented lost time in Nice for BMC Racing, which was another pre-race favorite for the stage. Evans and Co. lost 26 seconds to Orica and the 2011 Tour champion sits 28th overall, 23 seconds behind the Sky tandem of Chris Froome and Richie Porte.
“That’s too much [time],” said Evans. “It’s important to gain every second; losing time wasn’t what I had hoped for and not what we expected. We will analyze things, and move forward. The simple analysis was is that we were not fast enough. The individual time trials will count for a lot. We’re still a ways from there. I would have preferred to make some seconds. Instead, we’re on the back foot, and we have to make it up somewhere.”
Benjamin Noval, a key supporter to Alberto Contador at Saxo, suffered a torn tendon in his left hand after colliding with the spectator’s camera.
“Noval suffered a hard blow to his hand and tore his tendon in his left index finger causing severe pain,” Saxo staff said in a press release. “The pain will have an affect on Noval’s abilities in the race and surgery might be needed after Tour de France.
“However, Benjamin Noval will be on the start line tomorrow.”