Bradley Wiggins is perfectly poised to defend his 2011 Criterium du Dauphine title after extending his lead in the 53.5km Bourg-en-Bresse time trial, which he won ahead of world time trial champion Tony Martin.
Maybe this is a message for the Tour ... but I’m also sure that Cadel will increase his level before the Tour. For now, we’re at the Dauphine and the Tour is something else.
Australian Michael Rogers continued his strong recent run of form with a third place finish, but the day firmly belonged to Sky's Wiggins.
So dominant was his ride that the Briton came close to catching his two-minute man, defending Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans. The Australian saved face by holding off the catch, but did concede 1 minute 43 seconds to Wiggins.
Wiggins explained before the podium ceremony that it was just one of those days where everything clicked.
"This was a perfect course for me," he said. "It was really my thing although there was a lot of wind. I’ve trained all my life for that. It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to beat the world champion. For me that’s more important than beating Cadel Evans.
"I got everything I wanted out of my own effort. When I saw Cadel ahead of me, it didn’t change anything for me. I remained focused on my own effort because I didn’t know what Cadel was doing, if he was focused or not, if he had good feelings or not."
Wiggins added that dehydration may have played a factor in Evans's ride after the Australian lost his water bottle early in the stage on a bump. The Briton however was adamant that he would've won in any case.
"If he didn’t have anything to drink, it must have been a real disadvantage on that course today. But I knew anyway from the two time checks that I was ahead of him. Maybe this is a message for the Tour . . . but I’m also sure that Cadel will increase his level before the Tour.
"For now, we’re at the Dauphine and the Tour is something else. Last year, Cadel was also behind me at the Dauphine. I came back here because I won last year.
"It’s the same this year. I want to win again and I have a good team for making it. We’ve trained for that. The boys have proved they’re strong enough to support me till the end. These guys have showed their fitness. There are still three tough days to come."
Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE), who finished seventh, posted the early time to beat, the first rider to break the 1 minute 05 second mark. It was an impressive result for the 21-year-old Australian, who has never ridden a competitive time trial of such a long distance, and encouraging for his long-term future in the sport.
“This is my first long time trial during a stage race,” said Durbridge. “It’s a completely different feeling doing a tour time trial than a fresh time trial, so I was going into the unknown with my effort today.
"To be up amongst a whole lot of guys who are specialists in these long efforts is great. I’m up there, and I’m not far off the mark. Seventh is a great result.”
Another young prodigy, Wilco Kelderman (Rabobank), also impressed taking out a solid fourth. The Dutchman now holds the best young rider's white jersey.
2010 Tour de France champion Andy Schleck had yet another horror day, crashing and puncturing once, to concede more than 10 minutes.
"I had a good rhythm, I started well," he said to La Parisien. "After that, the wind caught my bike and put me on the ground. This is a day to forget but I’ll start again tomorrow."
In the overall standings, Wiggins holds a 38 second advantage over Tony Martin, with Rogers 1:20 off the pace.
Wiggins' Team Sky also holds three other riders in the top 25 (Froome, Siutsuo, Porte), making for a tough situation for the British UCI ProTeam's rivals in the days ahead.
Tomorrow's stage is the first day that the race hits the mountains in 2012. The big test, the Grand Colombier, serves up more than 18 kilometres of climbing at a steady, but difficult gradient of 6.9 per cent.
Watch Stage 5 of the Criterium du Dauphine LIVE on SBS TWO and streamed online from 11.10pm AEST.
Stage 4: 53.5km, Bourg-en-Bresse
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Sky 1hr 03min 12sec
2 Tony Martin (GER) Omega Pharma-QuickStep +34
3 Michael Rogers (AUS) Sky +1:11
4 Wilco Kelderman (NED) Rabobank +1:25
5 Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
6 Christopher Froome (GBR) Sky +1:33
7 Luke Durbridge (AUS) Orica-GreenEDGE +1:37
8 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC +1:43
9 David Millar (GBR) Garmin-Barracuda +1:51
10 Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) Rabobank +1:53
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Sky 14hr 11min 07sec
2 Tony Martin (GER) Omega Pharma-QuickStep +38
3 Michael Rogers (AUS) Sky +1:20
4 Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) Omega Pharma-QuickStep +1:38
5 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC +1:44
6 Wilco Kelderman (NED) Rabobank +1:45
7 Christopher Froome (GBR) Team Sky +1:48
8 David Millar (GBR) Garmin-Barracuda +2:00
9 Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) Rabobank +2:02
10 Andriy Grivko (UKR) Astana +2:18