Nice - Tour de France favourite Chris Froome and the man tipped to be his closest challenger, Alberto Contador, both declared themselves satisfied with their performances in Tuesday's fourth-stage team time-trial around Nice, but it was a bad day at the office for another leading contender in Cadel Evans.
The short and flat 25-kilometre ride around the city was won by the Orica-GreenEdge team, allowing third-stage winner Simon Gerrans to seize the yellow jersey.
Team Sky were third-quickest on the day, leaving Froome just three seconds off the pace in the general classification as the Tour begins to move along the Mediterranean coast towards the Pyrenees.
Meanwhile, Contador and his Saxo-Tinkoff team lie a further six seconds back, while the BMC team of Australian Evans, who is looking to become the oldest ever winner of the Tour, slumped badly, leaving him 26 seconds off the overall lead, and a significant 23 seconds adrift of Froome.
"The main objective of today was to come through without having lost any time on the big contenders, but we've actually come through it having gained a bit of time. So that's a fantastic thing," said Froome.
It looked at one stage as though Sky might sneak ahead of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team of Mark Cavendish before both were outdone by Orica, but the Kenyan-born Froome is not entirely comfortable being in the limelight and he insisted he was happy at not being in the yellow jersey for the moment.
"If we had taken yellow it would have been by just a few seconds and it would have meant that we would have to be on the front for the next few days, possibly spending quite a lot of energy to defend only a few seconds," he declared.
"So I think in a way it's a good thing we didn't end up in the yellow jersey."
Contador, the two-time Tour winner who was also stripped of the 2010 title after testing positive for clenbuterol, had been tipped to lose significant ground on his main rivals in a stage that finished on Nice's famous waterfront Promenade des Anglais, so he had every reason to be pleased with his team's performance.
"I think it was a good day for us," he told reporters while warming down at the end of the stage.
"Of course it's always better if you finish in front of all your rivals, but if you look at the GC, the gap is not big and it keeps us in contention."
"I'm feeling good. Of course, after the crash on the first stage I was feeling a bit of pain, which is normal," he added, in reference to the nasty fall near the finish on the way in to Bastia on Saturday that saw him injure his shoulder.
"We are only four stages in, and I'm getting better every day. My aim is to be in perfect condition for the Pyrenees."
For Evans, though, the concern now surrounds where he might be able to claw back the ground lost on his rivals on Tuesday, with the individual time-trial to Mont Saint-Michel earmarked as perhaps his best bet.
That, though, is not for more than a week, and first come the Pyrenees.
"You look to gain every second you can at this stage in the Tour and losing a lot of seconds certainly isn't what I hoped for today and isn't what I expected, but we'll have to go back and have an analysis and look at what went wrong and go on from here," he admitted.
"Of course the next individual time-trial's going to count for a lot, but we are still a way off from that yet.
"It's quite difficult to see where I can make up the lost time. I prefer to concede zero seconds or even make some seconds today but we are being put a bit on the back foot and we'll just have to see what opportunities come our way."