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Astana take team time-trialAstana's all-star team showed their strength to win the team time-trial in stage four of the Tour de France at Montpellier, as Fabian Cancellara defended his yellow jersey from Lance Armstrong by less than a second,Chasing Garmin-Slipstream's time of 46'47" on a testing, technical course, Alberto Contador led Astana across the finish line 18 seconds up on the American team, and 40 seconds ahead of Cancellara's Saxo Bank team.The Swiss specialist kept his yellow jersey despite being level on time with Armstrong on the general classification, denying the American a fairytale return to the Tour.The relentless pace of the Garmin team put them in a difficult position as they lost four of their riders over the first half of the course, but their five remaining time-triallists par excellence - Bradley Wiggins, David Millar, David Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde and Ryder Hesjedal - produced a superb display of power that came close to securing them a stage win.The Saxo Bank team of the Schleck brothers was third, and in the end it may have been a huge effort on the front of their train over the last kilometre from Cancellara himself that allowed him to keep his yellow jersey, after intermediate splits had previously suggested the advantage lay with Armstrong.The Columbia team, who had upstaged Garmin in the team time-trial at the Giro d'Italia this year, were off the pace from the start, and they finished in fifth place, 59 seconds off the time of Astana, with Liquigas sneaking in ahead of them by a second in fourth.The two big losers of the day among the general classification contenders were Cadel Evans and Denis Menchov.Evans's Silence-Lotto team were a disappointing 13th, 2'35" off the pace, while Menchov, known for his lack of confidence in bike-handling, fell early on. Though the big Russian recovered well, his team could manage no better than 11th position, 2'20" back.Carlos Sastre's Cervelo team were never likely to challenge the likes of Astana and Saxo Bank, though managed to limit their losses to a respectable 1'37" on the Kazakh-backed outfit.The lack of time bonuses makes an Armstrong challenge for the yellow jersey on stage 5 unlikely, though Friday's stage to Andorra-Arcalis is likely to see an attack.
13 Jul 2009
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