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Wiggins wins Tour time trial, extends lead

BESANCON, France — Bradley Wiggins, looking to give Britain its first Tour de France victory, won the first big time trial of this year’s race and extended his overall lead.

The three-time Olympic track champion captured the 25.8-mile ninth stage Monday, asserting his command in cycling’s showcase event. He beat runner-up Christopher Froome of Britain by 35 seconds in the ride between Arc-et-Senans and Besancon.

“That was my physical best out there,” Bradley told French TV after his first Tour stage win. “It’s probably my best time trial ever.”

The stage marked the dominance of the Sky Team, with Wiggins and Froome delivering a 1-2 punch — notably to defending champion Cadel Evans, who finished 1:43 behind Wiggins in sixth place.

“I was really motivated — the time trial is my thing,” Wiggins said, adding he had worked hard on his riding position, breathing and study of the course. “I am very happy now.”

Evans remains second overall, trailing Wiggins by 1:53. Froome jumped to third, from sixth, and is 2:07 behind his teammate.

Wiggins entered the stage looking to move up in the overall standings, a stage victory not his top priority.

“My goal was to get a minute on Cadel. ... I’ve come away with a bit more than that, it’s a bonus,” Wiggins said. “Winning the stage is like Christmas. It’s brilliant.”

Riders set off one by one down the starter’s ramp for the time trial. By the first time check, just more than 10 miles, Evans was more than a minute slower than Wiggins, but the defending champion was able to limit the damage.

On one of the warmest days so far in this Tour, many riders crossed the finish with white spittle ringing their lips, a sign of dehydration. Unlike usual road stages, time trials require solo efforts, placing additional importance on form, concentration and rhythm.

After 10 straight days of racing, the 178-rider pack gets its first rest day Tuesday. The field then faces two hard days in the Alps, including a summit finish Thursday that is likely to shake up the standings.