BESANCON, France — If Monday's time trial at the Tour de France was "the test of truth," as one top rider called it, then Bradley Wiggins aced it.
The Olympic champion, aiming to be the first British winner of cycling's showcase race, sped to victory in the first big time trial, tightening his grip on the yellow jersey.
"That was my physical best out there," he said. "It's probably my best time trial ever."
The race against the clock is a discipline Wiggins loves. And it showed in the ninth stage, a 25.8-mile ride from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon. He finished 35 seconds ahead of Sky teammate and runnerup Christopher Froome.
Defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia, seen as Wiggins' most formidable rival, was a disappointing sixth. He called Wiggins and Froome "very, very, very strong riders."
A day earlier, Evans was all too aware of the stakes in the time trial: "Tomorrow is the test of truth. It's each with their own two legs," he said.
Evans was 1:43 behind. He remains second overall, trailing by 1:53. Froome rose to third, from sixth, and is 2:07 back.
"I was really motivated — the time trial is my thing," Wiggins said, adding that he had worked hard on his riding position, breathing and study of the course. "I am very happy now."
Overall, Italy's Vincenzo Nibali is fourth, 2:23 behind. Russia's Denis Menchov is fifth, 3:02 back, and Spain's Haimar Zubeldia is sixth, 3:19 off the pace.
Wiggins, who has the support of Froome in his title quest, entered the stage looking to move up in the standings.
"My goal was to get a minute on Cadel. … I've come away with a bit more than that, it's a bonus," Wiggins said. "Winning the stage is like Christmas — it's brilliant."