Hushovd in overall Tour lead after team time trial
Updated: July 03, 2011, 14:06
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LES ESSARTS, France (AP) Thor Hushovd of Norway captured the overall lead at the Tour de France on Sunday after his Garmin-Cervelo team won the time trial in the second stage of the race.
Hushovd took the yellow jersey from Philippe Gilbert of Belgium, the winner of Saturday's opening stage, as defending champion Alberto Contador lost more time to his main rivals.
World champion Hushovd seized the coveted yellow shirt for the third time of his career ahead of his teammate David Millar, with whom he shares the same time in the overall standings. Cadel Evans of Australia is third, just a second behind.
The Garmin-Cervelo team finished in 24 minutes, 48 seconds around the 14.3-mile flat stage in Les Essarts in the Vendee region of western France, at an average speed of 55.645 kilometers per hour.
It was Garmin-Cervelo's first stage win on the Tour after the American-registered outfit finished second in the 2009 team time trial.
The Garmin-Cervelo team, one of the most powerful in the race against the clock, looked well drilled from the start and produced an impressive display to win a very close contest as five teams finished within five seconds.
"This is an extraordinary dream, I'm very proud, I'm very happy to take the jersey and that the team won the stage,'' Hushovd said after crossing the finish line in front. "This is a great day, we did a really good team effort, everything worked perfectly.''
Garmin riders celebrated their win by lifting their manager Jonathan Vaughters on their shoulders at the podium ceremony.
"It was really hard work,'' Millar said. "We did the best we could. We didn't hide it was a main goal for us and we worked hard for this. We know each other well, it's a big advantage. I was constantly above my limits, as were my teammates.''
Vaughters and Hushovd were part of the Credit Agricole team which won the 2001 Tour team time trial.
"I would love to keep this jersey on my shoulders for as long as possible,'' Hushovd said. "I know it will be hard in stage four when we go up to Mur de Bretagne. If a rider like Cadel Evans is attacking me, it will be hard to stay on his wheel.''
Vaughters, a former teammate of Lance Armstrong, has developed a strong time trial culture within his team.
"They didn't make any mistakes,'' Vaughters said. "They did everything perfectly. I knew we were going to go fast.''
On the short and mainly flat course, Contador's Saxo-Bank team posted a time of 25:16. The three-time Tour champion had already lost more than a minute to his rivals during the first stage after being slowed down by a crash and stands 75th, 1:42 behind Hushovd.
Evans' BMC team finished second, four seconds back, with British team Sky ending third with the same time.
A two-time Tour runner-up, Evans leads Contador by 1:41, but the former world champion downplayed the importance of the margin after just two days of racing.
"There's a long way to Paris,'' Evans said. "With a guy like Alberto, he's such an all-rounder. If you want to beat him, you have to take time everywhere you can on him. In two days, it's been successful, but it's early days yet.''
Andy Schleck of Luxembourg gained 24 seconds on Contador as his Leopard Trek team finished fourth, four seconds off the pace.
"It's satisfying for me to see us put in such a strong showing,'' said Schleck, who finished second to Contador in the past two years.
Schleck is 10th overall, four seconds behind Hushovd, sharing the same time as the 12th-place Bradley Wiggins.
Contador and his Saxo Bank teammates had the disadvantage of setting off first in the stage and raced without any reference point to set their pace.
Many fans and riders have questioned Contador's presence after his positive test for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour.
The Spaniard, who denied any wrongdoing, could be stripped of all his titles back to last July if the Court of Arbitration for Sport rules against him next month.
After receiving jeers at the official team presentation earlier this week, Contador was again booed during the team time trial.
"The past year has been difficult for me,'' Contador told French TV after the stage. "I would like the whole process to be over. It's very hard for me, my family and my friends. The wait for a decision is difficult, but I'm really optimistic.''
Jamey Keaten and Jerome Pugmire contributed to this report in Les Essarts.