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NICE, France (AFP) ‚ Tour de France favorite Chris Froome (Sky) and the man tipped to be his closest challenger, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), both declared themselves satisfied with their performances in Tuesday’s fourth-stage team time trial around Nice.
The flat, 25-kilometer race around the city was won by the Orica-GreenEdge team, allowing stage 3 winner Simon Gerrans to seize the yellow jersey.
Sky was third-quickest on the day, leaving Froome just three seconds off the pace in the general classification as the Tour begins to move along the Mediterranean coast towards the Pyrénées.
Meanwhile, Contador and his Saxo team lie a further six seconds back.
“The main objective of today was to come through without having lost any time on the big contenders, but we’ve actually come through it having gained a bit of time. So that’s a fantastic thing,” said Froome.
It looked at one point as though Sky might sneak ahead of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team of Mark Cavendish before both were outdone by Orica, but the Kenya-born Froome insisted he was happy at not being in the yellow jersey for the moment.
“If we had taken yellow it would have been by just a few seconds and it would have meant that we would have to be on the front for the next few days, possibly spending quite a lot of energy to defend only a few seconds,” he said. “So I think in a way it’s a good thing we didn’t end up in the yellow jersey.”
Contador, the two-time Tour winner who was also stripped of the 2010 title after testing positive for clenbuterol, had been tipped to lose significant ground on his main rivals in a stage that finished on Nice’s famous waterfront Promenade des Anglais, so he had every reason to be pleased with his team’s performance.
“I think it was a good day for us,” he told reporters while warming down at the end of the stage. “Of course it’s always better if you finish in front of all your rivals, but if you look at the GC, the gap is not big and it keeps us in contention.”
“I’m feeling good. Of course, after the crash on the first stage I was feeling a bit of pain, which is normal,” he added, in reference to the nasty fall near the finish on the way into Bastia on Saturday, which saw him injure his shoulder.
“We are only four stages in, and I’m getting better every day. My aim is to be in perfect condition for the Pyrénées.”