Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) lost six seconds over Christopher Froome (Sky) in the Tour de France during the team time trial in Nice on stage 4. Despite the loss, the Spanish cycling star kept his cool, claiming that a handful of seconds will be negligible once the Grande Boucle hits the mountain stages.
The two were the top favourites ahead of the 100th edition of the Tour de France, and as expected, the team time trial created the first differences between the two protagonists. The strongest team prevailed on the 25km non-technical course, with Orica-Greenedge topping Omega Pharma-Quickstep by less than a second, and Sky in third place at three seconds from the Australian winners. The Saxo-Tinkoff was fourth, ceding six seconds to Sky.
The gaps are small compared with that of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), whose team was 17 seconds behind Orica, while Movistar lost 20 seconds and BMC gave up 26 for Cadel Evans.
"It's not bad of course. Winning would be better but I'm happy because my team was very good, they rode at hundred percent," Contador told Cyclingnews as he rolled away from the famous Promenade des Anglais beach strip back to his team bus. "Sky is in front of us with Froome and Richie [Porte]. Ten or fifteen seconds is not a big difference. There are still two tough weeks before the finish."
Although the firstt battle in this war was won by Froome, Contador was clearly proud about what his team had achieved. At the intermediate point of 13km the Saxo-Tinkoff team had a bonus of two seconds on Sky but that turned around in a six second loss.
"The favourites have finished within seconds of each other and that's good for the race; it's nice for the show," Contador said.
In the general classification after four stages, Contador is now placed 12th, while his rival Froome is 7th behind race leader Simon Gerrans (Orica-Greenedge).
Contador did not know that his teammate Benjamin Noval collided with a photographer during the first kilometres of the team time trial. "I didn't hear about it until the finish because my radio didn't work," Contador said. "Most important is that Noval will be recovered because he is a very important rider for the team."
A check-up after the race revealed that the heavy blow didn't cause a broken finger but a strained ligament in Noval's hand, and he will be able to take the start in stage 5 on Wednesday.
The Tour has several flat days ahead before the race reaches the first mountain stages in the Pyrenees, but Contador expects it to be anything but relaxing.
"The most important now is stress [of the race] because the next three days will be hard days on the flat and afterwards we look at what happens in the mountains," Contador told Cyclingnews.