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“We’ll take that result,” Sky team boss Dave Brailsford said. “The boys pulled together.”

The peloton returned to mainland France after three stages in the searing heat and sinewy climbs of Corsica.

Under sunny blue skies, the teams set off at 4-minute intervals and the overall team standings were reversed, meaning the first team to go was Argos-Shimano and the last was RadioShack.

Argos-Shimano, including Marcel Kittel — the German who won the Tour’s hectic first stage — finished last, nearly 2 minutes off the pace.

Omega set a ferociously quick time despite the fact their best rider — Tony Martin — was carrying the scars from his fall on stage 1.

Garmin-Sharp, convincing winners of the team time trial when it was last held two years ago, had high hopes of placing veteran David Millar in the yellow jersey. But they finished in sixth place, 17 seconds behind Orica.

“I wasn’t in good form today but the team was very, very strong,” the 36-year-old said. “I think it was me who was missing the seconds.”

Martin was unconscious in the team bus after his fall and taken to a hospital for injuries that included bruising of the lung. Thomas rode with a fractured pelvis.

“Unbelievable,” Brailsford said, praising Thomas. “Real courage.”

It was a tough day for Evans, with his BMC team placed ninth, placing him 23 seconds behind Froome and 17 behind Contador.

“It wasn’t a good operation. In 2007 I lost the GC (overall standings) by 23 seconds, so it’s a lot,” Evans said. “I’m a little bit disappointed.”

This day belonged to another Australian.