Tour de France: Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky wins stage nine

 

Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins enhanced his advantage in the yellow jersey with a stunning victory on stage nine's individual time-trial today.

Wiggins (Team Sky) clocked 51 minutes 24 seconds to triumph on the 41.5-kilometre race against the clock from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon.

The triple Olympic champion, who on Saturday succeeded prologue winner Fabian Cancellara in the maillot jaune, began the day with a 10-second lead over defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and enters tomorrow's rest day with an advantage of 1min 53secs.

Evans placed sixth on the day in 53:07, as Team Sky celebrated a one-two on the stage, with Chris Froome second in 51:59. Olympic time-trial champion Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) was third in 52:21.

Froome, who won stage seven, climbed into third place overall, 2:07 behind his team-mate and 14 seconds behind Evans.

The time-trial, coming ahead of tomorrow's rest day, could be significant in the race for the maillot jaune, with this year's Tour featuring more than 100km of racing against the clock before the finish in Paris on July 22.

Wiggins is now firmly in pole position to be the first British Tour winner - and Froome could join him on the podium.

The day's events were also a useful marker for the 44km August 1 Olympic time-trial at Hampton Court, when Wiggins hopes to add to his haul of three Olympic gold medals. Wiggins and Froome are Britain's Olympic time-trial selections.

As race leader, Wiggins started last, three minutes behind nearest rival Evans, who he was seeking to beat to Besancon, the watch-making centre of France.

At the first time check, after 16.5km, Wiggins led the field in 21:05 and was beating Evans by 1:02. Froome was five seconds behind his team-mate.

Wiggins again led through the second time check, at 31.5km, in 39:02, 16 seconds faster than Froome and 1:19 ahead of Evans.

The 32-year-old maintained his scintillating pace in the final quarter of the race to triumph by 35 seconds from Froome, with Cancellara a further 22 seconds behind.

David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) was 36th in 55:38 and Steve Cummings (BMC Racing) 39th, nine seconds further adrift.

Mark Cavendish (Team Sky), the world road race champion, was 6:27 behind in 1:00.07.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), who began the day in third overall, 16 seconds behind, finished in 53:31 to place eight on the stage and fall to fourth place, 16 seconds behind Froome.

Germany's Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), the world time-trial champion, clocked 53:40 to place 12th despite wearing a cast on his fractured wrist and later revealed he suffered a puncture.

Froome was nine seconds behind Wiggins after the opening prologue, but punctured on the opening road stage to Seraing, losing 1:25 on the stage.

Had the 27-year-old not suffered that misfortune he would be ahead of Evans in the standings.

Speaking to French television, Wiggins said: "We had a good look at the course after the Dauphine (in June) and got it down on video. I was very motivated for today it's my speciality.

"I felt at home. I'm very happy. It was not an easy course, with lots of corners, little hills and a technical finish.

"We've been doing this kind of thing for 10 years, winning gold medals at it. The track is my school, the individual pursuit, I've done lots of kilometres in this position since I was a kid.

"We've worked lots in the wind tunnel to get as fast a position as possible."

Wiggins launched an expletive-laden rant yesterday after insinuations, many on Twitter, that Tour riders must take drugs to win.

He added: "I'm not going to change my passion for cycling, you saw that yesterday in the press conference.

"I was a fan when I was a kid. You need that passion in an athlete, or you are just a machine.

"I'm not sorry for yesterday, it was my passion coming through."

PA

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