At the Tour de France's much anticipated team time trial, overall leader Fabian Cancellara was able to keep his yellow jersey for another day, even if his Team Saxo Bank only rode to a third placing behind Garmin-Slipstream and the winning team, Astana. Saving the precious garment by a mere fraction of a second from American Lance Armstrong, the Swiss powerhouse was pleased with his team's achievement.
"I was a bit nervous, I think Bjarne [Riis] and Kim [Andersen] were also nervous, we didn't know if we'd still be in yellow with this small amount of time," said Cancellara about the situation when officials rushed to calculate the time difference between the two, a mere 0.22 second. "My team and I can be proud of doing what we did today. Everybody did the maximum of what was possible. With Swiss time precision... time was born in Switzerland, so that was on my side!" he said.
In the end, the team lost 40 seconds to Astana, but Cancellara explained that the conditions and the twisting course were part of the reason the squad could not make the most of its strengths. "We had different tasks for different riders," he continued. "It was hard because of the wind and because of the nature of the course - it wasn't a good course for a team time trial. It obliged us to remain calm and not go flat out right away.
"We knew the last kilometres were more suited to a high rhythm. It was only 40 kilometres, not very long, but it was important to stay calm and concentrate, especially in the first part. Our preview of the course also helped a lot, and I think we deserve to retain this yellow jersey today. We can be very proud of what we have done."
Cancellara - also known as 'Spartacus' - was often seen in front during the race, pulling for long turns and constantly looking back to make sure he wasn't actually dropping his teammates. When asked about this, he emphasized that "it was the whole team's performance that made up the result", but still admitted that, "I had to watch out not to go too fast when I accelerated, not to challenge my teammates too much. That was a major concern over the whole parcours. I had to think about the others more than about myself, and that's also the reason why we retained the jersey."
Team Saxo Bank will thus start the fifth stage from Cap d'Agde to Perpignan on Wednesday bearing the yellow jersey for one more day. With another flat and windy stage coming up tomorrow, no one can predict the day's outcome.
"We don't know what will happen tomorrow," said Cancellara, whose team seems to be looking for allies down the Mediterranean coastline. "There will be a lot of wind again. For sure, we will try to defend the jersey another day. But with Columbia being so strong, the other sprinter's teams ask themselves why they should work to catch a break if Cavendish wins anyway."