Team Sky produced one of their best team time trials to date to place a fine third on stage four at the Tour de France.
The men in black and blue powered into the 25-kilometre course in Nice to clock a time of 25 minutes and 59 seconds as Chris Froome put time into all his general classification rivals.
Riding as a unit, the team crossed the line with eight of the nine riders all together, with a heroic Geraint Thomas arriving in moments later after pulling off just before the flamme rouge.
The Welshman rode through the pain barrier for a third day in succession on a strong day for the team, who finished just three seconds back on the day’s winners Orica-GreenEDGE.
The Australian outfit clocked a 25:56 to beat the benchmark time of Omega Pharma – Quick-Step by less than a second.
The result ensured Edvald Boasson Hagen, Froome and Richie Porte now occupy sixth, seventh and eighth overall, just three seconds back on new race leader Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE).
Thomas rode a smart stage and admitted to feeling better on the bike, despite enduring a small fracture to his pelvis - digging deep to support his team-mates.
"I definitely felt better when I woke up this morning and my race was to the promenade after 1km," he said. "When I made it there with the team I was buzzing off that and managed to give what I had.
"I was shouting at my team-mates at the end, we had to give it everything and we went full gas. We were all encouraging each other and we can be proud of our ride, especially with mine and Ian’s [Stannard] injuries after that crash on the opening day. To gain a bit of time on the other GC teams is a nice bonus.
"It would have been nice to have been 100% fit for today because it was the type of course I really like, but that’s sport, and that’s life. I gave it everything, and like I said, we can be proud of ourselves today."
Thomas also heaped praise on his team-mates who drove the team into a strong overall position after four days of action.
He added: "The strong guys in the team like Eddie, Froomey – the onus was on them to really drive the team forward and then everyone else did their bit. I rode the Olympics with Pete last year and obviously he’s got the power, and everyone knows how to ride a TTT in this team. It was really good, really smooth, and I think we got the best out of everyone.
"Being three seconds behind the lead is perfect. Obviously we would like to have won, and stood on that podium, but it means we don’t have to ride on the front and this should give me two days now to shelter from the wind and focus on my recovery. I feel 10 times better now than I did after the second stage and yesterday, so if I can keep improving, then that’ll be great news."
Another happy man was Froome, now up to seventh, who added: "That was a really satisfactory time and we’re really happy with the result. Personally, I felt really good – I was able to do little bit longer pulls on the front and I feel like I’m coming into some really good form now ahead of the mountains.
"The goal today was to get the jersey but we missed it by just three seconds. If we were in the jersey it would mean that tomorrow, and the next couple of days which are predominantly flat, we’d be on the front doing all that work which I think would be a bit unnecessary at the moment for such a small advantage.
"If we had taken yellow it would have only been by a few seconds so we’re really happy with that time, just three seconds back. That gives us a few more days to be in the peloton and we’ll wait until the mountains come where I feel the team will really excel."
Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford was understandably proud of the effort on display and admitted that Thomas' ride had exceeded expectations.
"It was an unbelievable ride by Geraint today," he confirmed. "Like he said, the plan was always for him to get to the Promenade des Anglais because he could only do a seated ride, he couldn’t get out of the saddle, and that’s a very hard thing to do.
"Then it was about keeping in contact with the team and those first three minutes were his big objective. Not only did he do that, after another three minutes he then started going through, taking turns, and pulling as strong as anyone else. That was incredible to see.
"This was a team time trial and it’s all about the team. This will have lifted the lads’ morale today because they have all put in a good performance. It was a setback with G and Ian the other day but this will have really settled them down."
Boasson Hagen kicked off the team’s effort from the start ramp before Froome, Peter Kennaugh, Vasil Kiryienka, David López, Porte, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Ian Stannard and Thomas combined to give everything for the cause.
Alberto Contador’s Team Saxo-Tinkoff squad were fourth quickest on the day, six seconds back on Team Sky while Lotto-Belisol pulled out a strong ride for fifth with a time of 26:13.
Omega Pharma – Quick-Step were the quickest squad through the 13km intermediate sprint and, along with Orica-GreenEDGE and Team Sky, were the only three teams able to get under the 26 minute-mark.
Overnight leader Jan Bakelants and his RadioShack-Leopard squad were the final nine down the ramp but the Belgian was forced to relinquish yellow with a time 29 seconds slower than the winning effort.