Chris Froome kept hold of the yellow jersey after the stage nine team time trial after Team Sky lost out to world champions BMC Racing by less than one second.
With Froome holding a 13-second lead over the American team’s leader Tejay van Garderen prior to the stage, there had been a danger of the jersey changing hands again but instead only a messy final run-in cost Sky the stage win.
Separated by just 0.6 seconds at the top, both Froome and van Garderen were able to put time into their GC rivals too ahead of the mountains, with Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo 28 seconds back and Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana another seven seconds down.
Missing Tony Martin, former world champions Etixx-QuickStep lost 45 seconds to BMC Racing, but Movistar’s decision to select both Alex Dowsett and Adriano Malori paid off as they finished third by four seconds.
Movistar’s approach to the stage perfectly highlighted the nature of the rolling course, with Dowsett and Malori setting the pace on the flat before the climbers came to the fore for undulating middle sector and the uphill finish on the Core de Cadoudal.
The Spanish team were the first to set a serious time, 32.19, though it could have been even better had they not been split three ways at one point on the climbs.
The performance was enough to move Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde into the top ten, though, with Quintana set to wear the white jersey on stage ten as youth classification leader Peter Sagan is in green.
BMC Racing proved their class to take four seconds off the Spanish team’s lead, however, with five finishers – including van Garderen – while Team Sky also showed their strength as they set the pace through the intermediate time checks.
Froome himself did much of the work, but had to drop back within sight of the finish line to pace fifth man Nicolas Roche back to the group – ultimately costing them stage success.
At the other end of the scale, with several teams missing riders for others it was a fight to the finish and to get inside the time cut.
Orica-GreenEDGE, the first team out with just six men remaining, went particularly slow – helping the battered and bruised Michael Matthews to beat the cut-off and stay in the race.
Lotto-Soudal’s Adam Hansen, meanwhile, set off on his road bike to ease the pain of the dislocated shoulder he suffered on stage two.
Ultimately, however, all riders made it and Froome will now resume hostilities in the Pyrenees, after the rest day, with a 12-second overall lead to protect.
Tour de France 2015: stage nine (team time trial) – result
1) BMC Racing (USA) – 32.15
2) Team Sky (GBR) +1”
3) Movistar (ESP) +4”
4) Tinkoff-Saxo (RUS) +28”
5) Astana (KAZ) +35”
6) IAM Cycling (SUI) +38”
7) Etixx-QuickStep (BEL) +45”
8) Lampre-Merida (ITA) +48”
9) LottoNL-Jumbo (NED) +1.14
10) Ag2r-La Mondiale (FRA) +1.24
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 31.34.12hrs
2) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +12”
3) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing +27”
4) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff-Saxo +38”
5) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.03
6) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Etixx-QuickStep +1.18
7) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +1.50
8) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky +1.52
9) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +1.59
10) Zdenek Stybar (CZE) – Etixx-QuickStep – ST