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BESANCON, France (AFP) — Time trial specialists Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara found themselves upstaged on Monday as Team Sky scored another impressive result on the Tour de France.
In the first of two long time trials race leader Bradley Wiggins tightened his grip on the yellow jersey by claiming a maiden stage victory that piled more time on defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), who now sits second overall at 1 minute and 53 seconds behind the Team Sky captain.
Wiggins, a three-time Olympic pursuit champ on the track, clocked a winning time of 51:24 for the rolling, slightly technical 41.5km course between Arc-et-Senans and Besancon.
The icing on the cake for Sky was Chris Froome’s runner-up finish, just 35 seconds slower than Wiggins, two days after the Kenyan-born Briton claimed his maiden stage at the first hilltop finish at La Planche des Belles Filles.
Martin, the reigning world champion from Germany, set the early pace but by the end his time of 53:40 was over two minutes slower than Wiggins.
The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider, who is hoping to challenge for Olympic gold in London later this month, did not expect to win. He has been racing with a broken scaphoid in his wrist since a crash early last week and lost time thanks to a puncture near the start.
“I felt not too bad, but I had a flat tire after about four or five kilometers, so I really lost my rhythm after that,” said the German. “But I know it wasn’t a good time for me.
“I suffered, but my hand was only really sore when I went over a hole in the road.”
Cancellara eventually took over as provisional leader. But first Froome, then Wiggins pushed him down a place each to third.
The RadioShack rider, who won the prologue on June 30 and wore the yellow jersey until handing it to Wiggins on Saturday, said the demands of Sunday’s hilly eighth stage in the Swiss Jura did not do him any favors.
“Yesterday was a really hard stage,” said Cancellara, another favorite for Olympic gold in London.
“Today I was totally focused and gave it everything I had. I’m happy because it was a difficult course for me, a typical Tour de France time trial.”