Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Tony Martin, "King of the Chrono," won the first Tour de France road stage of his career at 170km Stage 9, from Gerardmer to Mulhouse on Sunday. After escaping with Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), he dropped him on Category 1 Le Markstein (10.8km, 5.4%), and kept enough of a time gap on a chase group and the peloton to cross the finish line alone. Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) was 2nd, and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) 3rd.
"I think there are not so many guys in cycling who can do it like this," Martin said of his solo win. "But I have to do it this way because I am not a guy for the big attacks and playing games. When I have the space, when I have a gap, I know I can make a good race and go really fast. I can do an effort like that in more than a one hour time trial. I can put out this kind of effort in a three or four hour mountain stage. Today everything worked perfectly. I had good legs and condition. It was my kind of weather and with only one rider with me in the breakaway it suits my skills. We didn't play any games, we just were going and cooperating well. It was just a perfect day."
Martin also gained 18 KOM points on the six climbs of the stage, which put him in the Polka Dot Jersey (King of the Mountains). He even won the Most Combative Award for his outstanding effort.
The two riders went up the road with a 10 second gap just 17.5km into the stage, after the race regrouped from a previous attack. They cooperated well, gaining a big advantage as a result. Martin, three-time UCI World Time Trial Champion, never looked back and kept a good rhythm — and consistent effort — until the end of the stage.
Martin went into the final 12.5km with an 8'01" advantage on the peloton, 3'10" to a chase group of 17 riders, and 3'01" to two chasers including Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol), who took over the yellow jersey with his aggression.
Inside the final kilometers Martin's advantage further increased, allowing him plenty of time to celebrate before crossing the line as a Tour de France stage winner.
"I think I'm known for some crazy gambles such as today, going into the breakaway so early in the stage with just one rider," Martin said. "It doesn't always work out, but today it did. There was also some strategy behind it. I knew when the original 28-rider group directly behind us was chasing us down, that it could maybe work. For me the chance outside of the break would be really difficult. It was a flat finish and I'm not the fastest guy in the sprint. So, it was all or nothing. Uphill most of the time everybody goes fast, but on the descents and the flats you can really make up time. Because, everybody in the big break is too busy watching each other. That happened behind us. Uphill we maybe did the same speed, but on the top of the climbs and the descents we made really good time. I knew there would be a point where the chasers give up. We had 1'30", 1'40" advantage, but then the advantage grew to more than three minutes. I knew we broke the morale. So, I knew at that moment if I went alone and did a good time trial performance I could make it today."
Martin's win is the 47th, in three disciplines, in 2014. The German rider has also won the second stage for OPQS at the 101st Edition of the Tour de France.
"For sure the victory from Matteo Trentin took off the pressure on the team a little bit," Martin said. "But before that win we already showed that we never lost morale when Mark Cavendish crashed, and could not continue the Tour. We always were really active in the race. We stayed constantly in front. We could stay out of trouble and crashes and also try something in the crosswind. Maybe the morale was down temporarily when we found out Cav was out. But afterwards we decided to immediately make an aggressive race here. The first win of Matteo alleviated the pressure and we knew we could make some aggressive tactics. We tried today with Jan Bakelants in the original breakaway, and the second choice was me. It worked out, and we are all happy. We will celebrate our second stage victory tonight. I am happy that I was able to improve our morale even more with the first Tour de France road victory of my career."