Team third in tense TTT test
Team Sky came home third in the team time trial on stage two of the Tour de France to continue their strong start.
By Richard Simpson
Last Updated: 04/07/11 6:19pm
Team Sky came home third in the team time trial on stage two of the Tour de France to solidify their position in the upper reaches of the top-10.
The nine-man squad was narrowly edged into third on the tough 23-kilometre course around Les Essarts with a time four seconds down on stage winners Garmin-Cervelo.
The performance saw Geraint Thomas maintain his grip on the white young rider’s jersey and also ensured that the Welshman moved up the leaderboard into fourth place overall.
Thomas is joined in the top-10 by Edvald Boasson Hagen in eighth place, yet it was the Norwegian’s compatriot Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) who moved into the yellow jersey.
The team began the stage at a strong pace and were fastest overall through the first split at Boulogne with a time of 9:02, one second faster than pace-setters Garmin-Cervelo.
The two teams were involved in a nip and tuck battle throughout the stage, with the American squad taking back the initiative through the second split and eventually holding on to take victory.
A number of top teams came within fractions of unseating Team Sky in a heavily congested leaderboard, with the team’s final time of 24:52 hanging tough until penultimate squad BMC edged the riders into third by less than a second.
Leopard Trek looked in contention for a strong finish but could not unseat either of the top three teams, instead slotting into fourth place just six tenths of a second ahead of HTC-Highroad.
When the dust settled on the frenetic stage the team occupied three of the top 12 places, with Bradley Wiggins moving up to 12th on the same time as Thomas and Boasson Hagen, four seconds down on Hushovd.
Ben Swift put in a brave performance to stick with his team-mates as Wiggins drove the squad through the final few corners and across the line, dropping back slightly to hold 24th position overall on his first visit to the Tour.
With HTC-Highroad, Team RadioShack and Leopard Trek all setting fractionally slower times, the team emerged well from a high-pressure day despite dropping two riders after 12km following the first split.
The team time trial did not play into the hands of overnight race leader Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), who lost the yellow jersey as his team came home 39 seconds down on Hushovd.
Arguably an even bigger loser on the day was Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) who lost yet more time in the defence of his yellow jersey after a disastrous first stage.
The Spaniard dropped a further 28 seconds to the race leader after his team had the unfortunate task of being first out of the blocks, setting an early banker time of 25:16 that was good enough for eighth.
After the stage Sports Director Sean Yates admitted that the riders had done all they could on a blustery course around Les Essarts.
He said: “Obviously the results tell the story. From our point of view the boys did the best they could. There were no incidents of any kind so basically they couldn’t have gone any faster, and the fastest team won on the day.
“The only area where there could be some area of debate is the strength of the wind. From when we went off compared to when Garmin went and also BMC. It only takes a little bit of a wind fluctuation and that can make a difference.
“It did seem to be very windy, and the time check would suggest that on the way out there was a stronger tailwind than Garmin so therefore a stronger headwind coming back into the finish. The boys were riding very strongly in that section but it only takes 3k-an-hour less wind to make that difference. But they boys did all they could to get the best possible result.
“A win is a win but we wanted to perform and we did. We knew we had a chance and we weren’t far off. Four seconds is not much over 23km. We knew it would be tight and it was close across the board.
“Tomorrow will be a long slog of a day. We have to be vigilant because things can happen that are slightly unexpected. We’re moving up in the car convoy so we should be in the action and we’ll see what happens.”
Moving on up
Speaking after putting in a huge turn to drag the team across the line, a happy Bradley Wiggins insisted that the riders had done everything they could to achieve a result on the day.
He said: “Today it was about the performance of the team and we discussed it at length beforehand in the bus with Bobby Julich. It was just about getting the maximum from every rider today and everyone played their role.
“My role was to keep the pace in the final when the wind was at its greatest. Everyone from Urán to Simon Gerrans and the little climbers in the team, everyone played their part today and it was just a fantastic performance. When you come away from a race like that knowing there was nothing else you could have done there is certainly no disappointment there.
“We gained more time on some of the GC guys and it’s been a fantastic start to this year’s Tour, in complete contrast to last year. Edvald has shown today that he has the legs. G you could see was hungry for it. That is the only slight tinge of disappointment that he didn’t get the jersey because he really deserved it.”