At the Tour de France, it really isn’t a cliche to say that every second counts. As a former winner, Cadel Evans knows that better than most.

The 2011 champion was one of the losers Tuesday in the team time trial. Even riding bikes that cost as much as a good second-hand family saloon car, with sharp edges to slice through the air and fancy electric gears, Evans and his teammates still couldn’t keep up with two of his main rivals — Chris Froome and Alberto Contador.

Evans surrendered 23 seconds to Froome and 17 to Contador. So early in the Tour — the team race against the clock was only the fourth of 21 stages — such small losses are by no means fatal to Evans’ hopes of finishing on the podium in Paris on July 21. Riders who have bad days in the Pyrenees, in the second week, or on Mont Ventoux and in the Alps, in the third week, could lose far more than that on just one steep climb.

Still, Evans was the first to acknowledge that handing this early edge to the big favorites for the overall victory was far from ideal. Somewhere, somehow, Evans now has to make up that lost time if he can. Depending on how the race unfolds, the deficit could force the Australian to try to attack Froome and Contador in the mountains. That will be risky because both are better climbers than Evans. Contador, 30, and Froome, 28, are also a good bit younger than the 36-year-old Australian.

“You look to gain every second at this point in the Tour and losing a lot of seconds certainly isn’t what I hoped for today and it isn’t what I expected,” he said.

That wasn’t true of Orica-GreenEdge. The team of six Australians, a Canadian, a Swiss rider and a South African made itself at home on the Promenade des Anglais — “the promenade of the English” — with the quickest ever team time trial on the 15.5-mile route that went out and back along the famous beachside avenue in the Mediterranean city of Nice.

Racing past the palm trees Orica beat Omega Pharma-Quick Step by less than 1 second and Froome’s Team Sky by 3 seconds. Orica’s average speed of 35.9 mph was the fastest ever for a team time trial at the 110-year-old Tour.

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