Great Britain’s Chris Froome gained marginal time on his Tour de France rivals as Team Sky finished third at stage four’s team time trial in Nice.
A time of 25 minutes and 59 seconds over the 25-kilometre course wasn’t enough for victory as Orica Greenedge won in 25 minutes and 56 seconds to put Australian Simon Gerrans into the yellow jersey.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step, featuring Mark Cavendish, took second place just 0.75 seconds behind the winners.
Froome now sits three seconds back from Gerrans but six seconds ahead of general classification contender Alberto Contador, whose Team Saxo-Tinkoff were fourth. The 28-year-old, aiming to become the second Brit to win the Grand Tour, also took 23 seconds from 2011 winner Cadel Evans of BMC Racing.
Welshman Geraint Thomas, suffering from a fractured pelvis after a crash on stage one, again defied his injuries to help his Sky teammates until the final kilometre.
"Geraint's is the heroic story of the day," said Chris Froome. "Not only managing to hang on but then he did some pretty solid turns out there. That definitely helped us."
"Being three seconds behind the lead is perfect," Thomas said after the stage. "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."
Team Sky Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford added: "This was a good performance but we have to keep taking things one day at a time and not get ahead of ourselves. If you try and think about two days forward, you don’t think about the here and now, and this race is about concentrating on what needs to be done on each particular day.
“So far the guys have done that, we’re still in contention, they haven’t lost too much time, and they’re very close to the lead. That’s exactly where we want to be.
"It was an unbelievable ride by Geraint today. Like he said, the plan was always for him to get to the Promenade 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.”
Seventy one riders entered the first stage away from Corsica a second down on overall leader Jan Bakelants with David Millar Britain’s prospect to go into the yellow jersey he last wore in 2000.
Omega Pharma - Quick Step, featuring Cavendish, set the early pace covering the 13-kilometres to the intermediate checkpoint in 13 minutes and 16 seconds before finishing in 25 minutes and 57 seconds.
Their lead wasn’t threatened until Millar’s Garmin-Sharp outfit were just four seconds adrift at the time check but hopes of a Brit in the maillot jaune faded as did Millar’s colleagues who ended 16 seconds off the lead.
It was then Sky’s turn with two-time Olympic gold medallist Thomas frequently visible at the front. Five seconds down on then leaders Quick Step at the check an improvement in the latter section closed the gap to end just two seconds.
Contador’s Team Saxo had been four seconds quicker than Sky but faltered in the return journey while BMC Racing and Evans couldn’t challenge the top three as Orica celebrated a superb win.
1. Orica GreenEDGE 25:56 57.841
2. Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 0:01 57.803
3. Sky Procycling 0:03 57.729
4. Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:10 57.471
5. Garmin - Sharp 0:17 57.216
1 GERRANS Simon Orica GreenEDGE 12:47:24
2 IMPEY Daryl Orica GreenEDGE ,,
3 ALBASINI Michael Orica GreenEDGE ,,
4 KWIATKOWSKI Michal Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 00:01
5 CHAVANEL Sylvain Omega Pharma - Quick-Step ,,
6 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald Sky Procycling 00:03
7 FROOME Christopher Sky Procycling ,,
8 PORTE Richie Sky Procycling ,,
9 ROCHE Nicolas Team Saxo-Tinkoff 00:09
10 KREUZIGER Roman Team Saxo-Tinkoff ,,
13 MILLAR David Garmin - Sharp 00:17
96 KENNAUGH Peter Sky Procycling 09:18
154 STANNARD Ian Sky Procycling 26:03:00
176 THOMAS Geraint Sky Procycling 27:37:00