The Individual Time Trial: They call it “The Race of Truth”. And unless you’re Sky, the truth makes scary reading.
The course was medium length, at 41km, and a bit hilly at the beginning, but not enough to dissuade the TT specialists and there were no real surprises in the early rides of Stage 9. World Champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma Quickstep), with a wrist strapped due to a broken bone, was riding his last stage in this year’s Tour but his luck, which as deserted him throughout the race, was in no mood of changing, and within the first few kilometres suffered a puncture. He withdrew from the race last night to prepare for the Olympics. The other pre-stage favourite, Fabien Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) put Martin out of his miser, going 1:19 quicker at the finish. However, a succession of riders set first sectors faster than Cancellara, and it became clear that his provisional first place was under threat. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) pushed him hard, finishing 27 and 7 seconds back respectively, but by now the GC contenders, including Chris Froome (Sky), were on the road. The Kenyan-born rider, stormed to a 24-second lead at the first check but Bradley Wiggins (Sky), his rhythm and speed looking awesome, crossed the check point five seconds faster than Froome.
Sky’s Froome was looking almost as assured as Wiggins in his time trial position, out of the saddle on the rolling terrain, and faster than Van Garderen at the second check point. Wiggins came in 16 seconds faster than Froome, cementing his position as Sky’s undoubted leader in the race. Denis Menchov (Katusha) crossed the line in his Russian national time trial champion’s kit for an eventual 7th place, then Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) for 10th, but both were well off the pace and looking set to lose over two minutes. Froome meanwhile had crushed Cancellara by 22 seconds but it was left to the Yellow Jersey of Wiggins to set the pace, finishing 31 seconds ahead of Froome and putting 1 minute 43 seconds into Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), who finished 12th but just managed to hold on to 2nd place in the General Classification. The Tour is far from over but Wiggins has landed a heavy blow. On the downside, it is now open season on Sky, and they will really have their work cut out to defend the lead for another 2 weeks.
Today is rest day 1 of 2, the race continues tomorrow with Stage 10, 194.5km in the high mountains, including the 17.4km HC (“Hors Category”) climb of the Col de Grand Colombier. Ouch