The Tour's second stage, a 23 kilometre team time trial around Les Essarts, proved to be mission accomplished for BMC leader, Cadel Evans. The Australian's outfit went into Sunday's stage with an eye to not lose any time and secondly, to gain time and both items were ticked on the to-do list.
Evans is now just one second behind general classification leader Thor Hushovd and David Milllar (both Garmin-Cervélo), in third overall. BMC racing was the penultimate team out of the start house, with only Omega Pharma-Lotto to follow.
The two-time Tour runner up pulled some big turns on the front of the black and red train, but it wasn't enough for a completely flawless performance, with Michael Schär and Marcus Burghardt struggling through the corners when George Hincapie was dragging the team up to full speed mid-race.
"We've been quietly working away, doing our homework and keeping at it," Evans said after his team came home in a time of 24:52. "Our first goal was not to lose any time and our second goal was to actually gain time. The fact that we were actually there, nearly in the running for the win, was really something."
The team had been fastidious in their preparation for the stage, with several reconnaissance rides of the Les Essarts course last week already in the bank. With that in mind, directeur sportitf John Lelangue said that it was not surprising that BMC had finished just four seconds off the winning time of Garmin-Cervélo.
"In the end, it's always a nervous day. But at the end of the day we had a great result," he said. "We only missed the victory by a few seconds and the yellow jersey by a few seconds, but we are happy to be in this situation."
The team time trial has the potential to make or break a rider's ambitions to stand on the podium in Paris. With Sunday's result, Evans gained a further 24 seconds on pre-Tour favourite and defending champion Alberto Contador who is now 75th on GC, 1:42 back on Hushovd and Millar. Having twice stood on the second step of the podium in Paris - in 2007 by a gut-wrenching 23 seconds to Contador, and by 58 seconds to Carlos Sastre in 2008 - Evans knows the importance of taking every opportunity to gain time on his rivals.
Evans didn't gain any further advantage over Andy and Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek), Bradley Wiggins (Sky) or Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) however, the same could not be said for some of the former world champion's fellow contenders for the top 10.
On former teammate Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), Evans gained a further six seconds, with the American pair now 10 seconds back on GC. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) also lost time on Evans.
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.