IMPORTANT STEP: Team Sky rider harms rivals with time trial win
BESANCON (France): Britain's Bradley Wiggins tightened his grip on the yellow jersey after claiming his maiden Tour de France victory in the ninth stage time trial yesterday.
Team Sky teammate Christopher Froome finished second at 35secs with defending yellow jersey champion Cadel Evans of BMC way off the pace in sixth at 1min 43sec.
Wiggins had taken a 10sec lead over Evans into the 41.5-km race against the clock between Arc-et-Senans and Besancon, giving the Australian hope of staying close ahead of the mountain stages to come later this week.
However the Englishman turned on the turbos from the start of the slightly technical rolling course to give the 2011 champion a small mountain to climb.
Ahead of the race's first rest day today, after which will be the second summit finish of the race, in the Alps tomorrow, Wiggins now leads Evans by 1:53.
And with the ever-impressive Froome moving up to third at 2:07 behind Wiggins, Sky have widened their tactical options.
Wiggins, who crashed out of the race on stage seven last year, increasingly looks like he will win this year's race.
Despite focusing on distancing his rivals, the Londoner was happy to soak up claiming his first win on the world's biggest bike race.
"I knew from the first pedal turn that I felt fantastic," said the 32-year-old.
"But to go from that to winning the stage, it's just fantastic.
"We came here and did a good reconnaissance of the course, which has lots of little bends and is quite technical at the finish.
"But today wasn't about winning. I was thinking more about the GC (general classification) battle with (Vincenzo) Nibali and Cadel. The stage wasn't my priority."
Nibali, who finished 2:07 behind Wiggins on the stage, is now fourth overall with Russian Denis Menchov, a former winner of the Tour of Spain and Giro d'Italia, in fifth at 3:02.
Despite distancing several of his rivals, Wiggins was quick to stress there is a long way to go to Paris.
"It's another day at the Tour but there's a long way to go," he added.
"After the rest day it will be a whole different ball game. And anything can happen, a bad day or a crash, so let's just take it a day at a time."
Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara, a four-time world time trial champion finished fourth at 38sec, two seconds behind American Tejay Van Garderen of BMC. AFP