Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) has won the ninth stage of the 2012 Tour de France.
The British rider produced an emphatic performance to set the fastest time over a rolling 41.5km course from Arc et Senans to Besançon.
Wiggins’ teammate, Chris Froome, finished second, ahead of third-placed Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek).
Defending champion, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), finished fifth on the stage to remain second overall, but slipped to 1.53 behind Wiggins on general classification, having started the day just 10 seconds down.
Wiggins performance earned him his first ever stage win in the Tour de France, but the manner of his performance suggested a bigger prize may yet be on the horizon.
He described the stage win as a bonus, and said he had recovered well from the previous day’s effort, where he had chased down Evans on the run in to Porrentruy.
Wiggins said: “We’re nine days into the Tour now and there were two tough stages before today. Everyone was tired last night and you never know how you’re going to recover.
“Time trialling’s what I do best, though. I get into my zone, know exactly the routine I have to go through during the stage, and I felt great today. The minute I turned the first pedal stroke on the warm-up I felt fantastic, so I knew I was on a good one.
“This is what we’ve trained for. Sean was saying to me on the radio in the last 10km – ‘think of all those hours, all those sacrifices you’ve made’ – this is what that was all for and that really motivated me.
“All the hard work during the winter, missing my children’s birthdays being on training camps and things – this is what it’s all for – these moments.
“I didn’t set out today for the stage win, it was a battle for the GC, but to get the stage win is a bonus and that’s fantastic as well.”
Froome produced another hugely impressive performance after his victory two days earlier at the summit of La Planche des Belles Filles.
His ride moved him from sixth to third on general classification. He said: “I’m really happy today. I went as hard as I could.
“There’s no tactics on days like today. Time trials are by far the hardest event in cycling. You just have to go as fast as you can and turn yourself inside out to get the best time possible.
“In terms of the race information I was getting in my ear, it’s good to know you’re putting in a fast time but then you’ve also got to be careful you’ve not started too fast and overcook it so it’s a very fine line to gauge that effort.
“Bradley’s time was quite a bit faster than mine but I’m really happy with the performance I put in. I gave it everything I had and that’s all I could do. It was a big performance we put in and there could be a bit of a celebration later.
“There’s still a long way to go before I can start thinking about a podium position, I’ll just take it day by day from here.”
Froome smashed the previous best time at the first check point, set by the white jersey holder, Teejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing), who had shocked observers by beating Cancellara’s time at that point.
But Froome was some 23 seconds up on Van Garderen, courtesy of an average speed over the first section of 47kmh.
When Evans passed through the first checkpoint, it was some 63 seconds adrift of Froome, a gap he reduced to 58 seconds by the finish.
But both men were shaded by Wiggins, who got faster as the stage wore on, leading Froome by five seconds at the first check point, 16 seconds at the second check point, before beating his teammate by 35 seconds.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), finished eighth, some 2.07 behind Wiggins on the stage, to slip from third to fourth on GC, 2.23 behind the race leader.
World time trial champion, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), set the early pace, despite a puncture after five kilometres.
But his chief rival among the specialist time trialists, Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) lowered the bar significantly, crossing the first time check some 38 seconds quicker than Martin and extending his lead over the German to 1.09 by the second time check, extending his advantage by a further 10 seconds to 1.19 as he crossed the line.
Cancellara’s time survived for most of the stage, but after Froome’s blistering first sector, and Wiggins’ improvement on the time of his teammate, looked destined to fall.
Tour de France stage nine – result
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky – 51:24
2) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +35”
3) Fabian Cancellara (SWI) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek +57”
4) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +1.06
5) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +1.24
6) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +1.43
7) Peter Velits (SVK) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +1.59
8) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale +2.07
9) Denis Menchov (RUS) – Katusha +2.08
10) Andreas Klöden (GER) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek +2.09
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky – 39:09:20
2) Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing +1.53
3) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +2.07
4) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale +2.23
5) Denis Menchov (RUS) – Katusha +3.02
6) Haimar Zubeldia (SPA) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek + 3.19
7) Maxime Monfort (BEL) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek +4.23
8) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +5.14
9) Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) – Lotto Belisol +5.20
10) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – AG2R-La Mondiale +5.29