Michael Rogers stamped his authority on Bayern Rundfahrt with victory on the stage four time trial to extend his lead.
The Australian went into the day holding a slender five-second advantage but held his nerve to take the win by four seconds on the undulating 26.4-kilometre course, clocking a time of 31 minutes and 14 seconds.
The three-time world champion against the clock pushed his advantage out to 24 seconds overall as he led home a Team Sky 1-2, team-mate Richie Porte clocking second quickest time on the day.
Nearest rivals Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) and Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) both posted strong times at the intermediate split at Durrwang, yet neither could dislodge Rogers, the pair finishing third and fourth respectively as Coppel jumped up a place to second.
Team Sky showed great strength in depth with Kanstantsin Siutsou setting a time good enough for fifth on the day, mirroring his result on the overall standings while Porte jumped up to fourth in a real show of strength.
Racing in his home country Christian Knees also posted a strong time to take seventh on the stage and on the GC, further extending the team’s advantage in the team classification.
Race of truth
Continuing his strong performance in Germany, Rogers was happy to get the maximum out of himself in the time trial.
He said: “I was really happy with my performance and I was able to get out a good time trial and hold onto the lead. I was a little bit more motivated with the yellow on the back. That always brings the best out and I’m really happy.
“Richie had a really good ride. Luckily I was able to just duck under him there by a few seconds. The whole team did well really with Kosta fifth and Christian seventh.
“Obviously we’re going to be aiming for it to end in a bunch sprint tomorrow. First and foremost we have to keep it together. We haven’t got any sprinters here so our goal is solely to maintain the jersey. The sprinters can do their thing and we can just duck and weave hopefully.”
Usually the decisive stage in the five-day event, the time trial in Freuchtwangen always looked likely to produce a strong contender for overall victory.
Unsurprisingly Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) set the early benchmark time of 32:30 but, on his first race back from a broken collarbone, was quickly dethroned by Jens Mouris (Orica-GreenEDGE), 25 seconds quicker than the four-time time trial world champion.
Porte set the time sheets ablaze mid-way through the day as he tore through the intermediate split 30 seconds quicker than anyone else.
A new best time of 31:19 for the man from Tasmania was followed up immediately by team-mate Knees who finished strongly to slot into second briefly. Rogers was the only one able to best his compatriot, mirroring in the process the result from last year which saw Bradley Wiggins win the time trial.
The race concludes on Sunday with a 164.9km test from Feuchtwangen to Bamberg which will decide the race.
Strength in depth
After the stage Sports Director Sean Yates was happy to see the team competing at such a high level on a day that produced another win for Rogers.
He said: “Mick came into the stage with the leader’s jersey and came out with a great result. He beat Richie who we know is a great time triallist so chapeau. He’s come here and shown he’s still got what it takes.
“Kosta was also up there and it’s just reward for all the hard work from the boys this week. We’ve got one more stage to contend with but we’re looking to bring another stage race victory home.
“We’ve known since day one that the boys are going really well and today reinforced that even further. There’s some decent riders here and it’s great to get another win for the team.”