Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Tony Martin did his best to fight for the yellow jersey in the final, 156.5km Stage 9 of Tour de Suisse on Sunday.
The parcours was the most difficult of all the stages.There were two Category 1, one Category 2, and a finishing HC climb to deal with. Furthermore, one Category 1 climb was just before the summit finish.
The GC contenders decided to take their chances on the final Category 1 climb. A small group including Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Bauke Mollema (Belkin), and Matthias Frank (IAM Cycling) went ahead of the yellow jersey, and eventually caught up with a group of about 14 leaders. With 41.4km to go, the group had a 1'12" gap.
The gap continued to climb, to more than two minutes by 35.3km to go in the race. But Martin was willing to fight hard to protect the jersey he wore for the previous eight stages, having won the prologue and the Stage 7 ITT. He worked on the front of the group, and even cut the gap down to 1'37" with 7.4km to go on the final climb after some attacks within the group.
Soon after, however, Frank launched an attack which was followed by Mollema and Costa. Frank tried attacking again, but the duo closed in on him. Costa eventually went solo with 2.3km to go, and he went on to win the stage and the overall.
Martin, with his amazing effort at the end of a hard fought Tour de Suisse, placed 4th in the GC.
OPQS won four out of nine stages, including sprint victories from Mark Cavendish and Matteo Trentin.
"I was strong enough to maybe win this year," Martin said. "But at the end, it was difficult when cooperation within the chase group wasn't there and we had a team here focused on the stages and the sprints. But, OK that's it. I think the work I did for the race, I need to be happy. I just need to try again at the next race if there is a chance to fight again for the GC. That's sport and that's cycling. When my main contenders went today on the climb, they were full gas. I couldn't follow directly or close the gap. I tried to play poker a bit to see if teams would support the chase for their contenders. It didn't work out that way. But, I still did my best to fight kilometer-by-kilometer and I have to be satisfied with what I could do today. As for my team, they did their best all week. It's no secret we're not here with the best mountain team. They gave everything. I have to be satisfied with how my team fought, how I fought, and I need to think positive for the future. I am back at the condition I was a few years ago where there is a chance to fight for a leader jersey. If someone would say half a week ago I'd finish fourth, and win two stages here, I'd be happy. I rode all week in yellow, the team rode for me all week, we won four stages here. I think we can look at the results and, despite finishing 4th after all that work, be proud. The whole team did the maximum this week and I have to thank my teammates for doing all they could for me."