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Nibali, Basso lead Giro d'Italia GC battle

Aside from the fantastic performance of Liquigas-Doimo that promoted Vincenzo Nibali to the top of the overall classification of the Giro d'Italia, the Cervélo TestTeam is probably the squad that took the best benefit of the team time trial as they finished in fifth position with an equal time as Astana.

Carlos Sastre was the next best GC contender, along with Astana's Alexander Vinokourov at 38 seconds behind Liquigas-Doimo captain Ivan Basso on the stage. "The team did a wonderful team time trial today," Sastre said after the stage. "The course was a really hard one, with the straight uphill. It was windy on the side and also at the back. The guys showed today they were so strong, they were really fantastic."

As he wore the pink jersey on that day, Vinokourov added 43 seconds to his lead over Giro d'Italia hot favourite Cadel Evans who actually limited the damages. His BMC team was in the situation to fear a bigger loss than 1:21 from stage winners Liquigas-Doimo.

BMC lined up without Alessandro Ballan, who is provisionally suspended by the team pending a doping-related Italian inquiry. They also lost Martin Kohler who abandoned due to injury on Monday.

Team manager John Lelangue was satisfied with his riders' performance "considering the conditions we rode in," he said.

"We got a pouring rain on the way. It was cold as well," commented Jeff Louder who was one of the two BMC riders who lost contact in the first part of the race, the other being Florian Stalder.

"We lost two guys pretty quickly", Evans mentioned. "One is in low condition, the other one isn't a time trial specialist but [Danilo] Wyss, [Mauro] Santambrogio, [John] Murphy, they really surprised me."

The world champion was stressed by the team time trial since the same exercise was at the origin of his fall out with Silence-Lotto during the 2009 Tour de France. He seemed relieved to have limited the damages. "You're talking to someone who lost the Tour de France by 23 seconds," he said, recalling the 2007 Tour de France.

Evans also lost the 2008 Tour de France to Sastre by 58 seconds, so he was happy to have almost that amount of time as an advantage over the Spaniard after three stages in the Netherlands: 57 seconds. But this has been reduced to 14 seconds after Cervélo's great ride from Savigliano to Cuneo.

While Evans leads Sastre, he is now 1:59 down on Nibali and 1:46 on Basso. It's significant, but with the mountains to come, none of them has lost the race after four days.

Vinokourov is within reach of the maglia rosa at 33 seconds, but we will likely have to wait for the stage to Monte Terminillo on Sunday before seeing a challenge to the lead of Nibali.

GC contenders after stage 4

1Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo10:44:00
2Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo0:00:13
6Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana0:00:33
27Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team0:01:59
32Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team0:02:13
38Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli0:02:35
41Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:02:49
44Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:03:45
106Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:11:04
120Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago-CSF Inox0:11:33
139Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Caisse d'Epargne0:11:57

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