MONT-SAINT-MICHEL, France (VN) — Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) put a nightmare stage 1 crash behind him with a victory in the Tour de France’s stage 11 time trial on Wednesday.
“The goal was always to continue the Tour de France because it’s a big honor to be here,” the world champion German said in a press conference. “When the team doctor said it was ok to continue, my focus turned to today’s stage. … To be honest, anything less than the victory would be disappointing for me.”
Martin went off 65th and smashed the early time set by Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge) with a 36:59. At 54.271 kph, it was the fourth fastest TT pace in Tour history, behind Chris Boardman’s 1994 prologue, Greg LeMond’s 1989 ride into Paris and David Millar’s EPO-fueled 2003 win in Nantes. The time held all day for Martin, but just barely. He waited so long that he had to leave the hot seat and change at the team’s bus. When he returned, his attention intensified.
Another 100 riders passed. Only Chris Froome (Sky), the last off and in the race leader’s yellow jersey, threatened his victory.
On the way to adding to his overall lead, Froome topped Martin at the first two time checks, by one second and then by two. It was only in the last 11km stretch that he slowed down, facing a stiff headwind. He put over two minutes into his classification rivals, but failed by 12 seconds to beat Martin.
“I don’t know how I was able to ride faster in that last stretch,” Martin said. “I did the same job as Chris. Maybe I had more reserves because I knew that in the last bit was a headwind. I saved myself and made a really hard final push. Maybe that’s why I took some seconds on him.”
On a day that, when we look back at the Tour in late July, he may have secured his first Tour title, Froome applauded Martin.
“I’m really happy with that result. Tony did a fantastic ride to win the stage,” said Froome. “In the last few kilometers there was a big headwind. I was just trying to turn the legs over to get to the finish.”
Martin bounced back from a crash 5km from the finish in stage 1 to Bastia. He suffered a concussion and a contusion on his left lung, and a deep wound 5cm wide on his left elbow. The team gave him the green light to continue the next day, but he had to make his way gingerly to this point. Omega Pharma narrowly missed out on the stage 4 team time trial win, even with Martin still recovering.
“I knew I would not be 100 percent for the team time trial,” he said. “But I knew I’d be ok for today.”
Since winning the world title in The Netherlands in September, Martin has not slowed down. The win in Mont Saint Michel is his eighth consecutive time trial win this year and made him just the second sitting world champion, along with Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard), to win a TT in the Tour.
Over the last three years, Martin has established himself alongside former Olympic champion Cancellara and current Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins (Sky) as the best time trialists in the sport. With Cancellara and defending Tour champion Wiggins absent, Martin is the race’s most prolific winner against the clock, having notched 33 TT wins as a professional.
“The number of wins doesn’t count,” Martin added. “I aim for goals, like the time trials in the Vuelta a España, the world championships, or the Tour de France.”
Martin’s win makes two victories in the 100th Tour for Omega Pharma, adding to Mark Cavendish’s sprint into Marseille last week. It also lifts the team’s spirits following yesterday’s sprint disaster, where Cavendish was accused of crashing Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano).
His win in the bag, Martin’s focus will now turn back to his team’s twin aims. He has one eye on Cavendish and one on Michal Kwiatkowski, who placed fifth and took the white jersey in Mont Saint Michel. The world TT champion’s power will do both of them well over the race’s remaining 10 stages.