BESANCON, France - Fabian Cancellara took the interim lead in the first full time trial in this year's Tour de France on Monday.
The Swiss speedster, who wore the yellow jersey for seven days after winning the race prologue, clocked 52 minutes and 21 seconds on the mostly flat 41.5-kilometre ninth stage between Arc-et-Senans and Besancon.
Earlier, world champion Tony Martin blew a tire but still posted the best provisional time of 53:40. The German could not hold on to the lead after a nearly flawless ride by Cancellara.
"I just focused on doing my own stuff, giving 100 per cent to deliver a good time trial," Cancellara said. "I'm happy with my performance."
Riders were competing in the time trial in the reverse order of the general classification.
Overall leader Bradley Wiggins of Britain will be the last of the 178 riders still in the race to set off, three minutes after defending Tour champion Cadel Evans.
Wiggins leads Evans by 10 seconds in the overall standings and is expected to gain more time on his Australian rival.
The last time Evans and Wiggins competed in the same time trial was at the Criterium du Dauphine last month. Wiggins finished 1:43 faster than Evans over the 53.5-kilometre course.
Martin, who excels in the race against the clock, won the gold medal in the time trial at the world championships last year.
In an earlier setback on the Tour, Martin broke the scaphoid bone of his left hand during the July 1 first stage. Despite the injury, he decided to stay in the race to focus on a possible win in the time trial.
In Monday's race, Martin covered the course at an average speed of 46.4 km/h, beating fellow German Jens Voigt, who was second, by 28 seconds.
Martin's main objective this year is winning the time trial at the London Olympics on Aug. 1.
He will decide later Monday whether he stays in the Tour or withdraws to focus on his preparation for the Games, said Omega Pharma Quick Step team spokesman Alessandro Tegner.