Lance Armstrong dramatically missed out on the yellow jersey by the slimmest of margins in Montpellier on Tuesday after his Astana team smashed their rivals apart in the Tour de France's fourth stage time trial.
Astana came over the finish line of the 39km race against the clock 40secs ahead of the Saxo Bank team of Fabian Cancellara, who began and finished the race in the yellow jersey. However Armstrong, the seven-time champion who moved up seven places from 10th to third after Monday's equally dramatic third stage, has shown once again that he fully intends to stay in contention for an eighth Tour crown.
Armstrong, returning to the race four years after his record seventh triumph in 2005, is now second overall in the overall standings at 0sec behind Cancellara, missing taking the yellow jersey by two tenths of a second.
The Garmin team of David Millar and Bradley Wiggins did well to finish in second, only 18secs behind Astana, in an event they desperately wanted to win.
The American team's bid came undone earlier than they had hoped, however, when they lost four of their riders early in the race.
Italian outfit Liquigas impressed in the time trial by finishing fourth at 58secs, one second ahead of Columbia.
Defending yellow jersey champion Carlos Sastre suffered his second big setback on the race, after losing time to key rivals in the opening stage time trial, when his Cervelo team finished eighth at 1:37 behind Astana.
Crashes plague fourth stage
Three crashes including one involving Giro d'Italia winner Denis Menchov marred the start of fourth-stage team time trial, though all the fallen riders got up and returned to the race.
The Russian was trailing a Rabobank teammate when he misjudged a left turn and skidded into the barriers shortly after the team took off on the 39-kilometer (24.2-mile) ride in and around Montpellier.
“Nothing really happened, it was a slippery road,” said Menchov after finishing the stage with a few scrapes and bruises on his arm. “It's nothing serious.” Menchov also crashed in the last individual time-trial of the Giro.