Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) crushed stage 20 of the Tour de France as race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) rode an authoritative time trial to defend his overall lead going into Sunday’s final stage.
Danny Pate (Sky) set the early best time in the 54km individual time trial from Bergerac to Périgueux. But it was the world time trial champion who set the one that would stick — 1:06:21.
“I felt quite good actually,” said Martin. “I thought I was more tired. I managed to keep a good tempo from start to finish, I didn’t falter, I’m glad about my performance.
“It’s true I knew the course well and I had to wait for two weeks to get there. Luckily I had won a stage already so it eased the pressure.”
Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) took second on the day at 1:39 behind Martin with Jan Barta (Team NetApp-Endura) third at 1:47.
Nibali, meanwhile, hit the line fourth at 1:58, confirming his dominance of the Tour with a single stage left, the traditional parade into Paris with its finish on the Champs-Élysées.
“I haven’t even thought about it yet, I’ve always thought about giving my maximum and not about what I might achieve or records or entering into Tour history,” Nibali said. “I just thought about getting to the end of each stage and getting on my bike because that’s what I like the most.”
Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r La Mondiale), who began the day third at 7:23, had a brief fright with some 20km remaining in his race. He punctured, but dismounted smoothly, laid the bike down carefully, and jumped aboard a spare in time to post a top-seven ride at the second time check. Teammate Romain Bardet likewise flatted and switched to a spare bike.
By the finish, despite his misfortune, Péraud had replaced Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) in second overall. Pinot, who began the day in the runner-up spot at 7:10, finished 11th and slipped to third overall.
“It’s an enormous satisfaction,” said Péraud. “The withdrawals of (Chris) Froome and (Alberto) Contador opened a range of possibilities and I started dreaming about this second place. I’m happy to have achieved that goal. I have a feeling of mission accomplished and a lot of joy today.”
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who began the day in fourth overall at 7:25, remained fourth, but shed time, falling to 9:55 behind Nibali.
Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) hit the line in 1:08:29, good for sixth on the day and moving him into fifth overall at 11:44, two seconds ahead of Bardet.
“It definitely feels good to move up one place. I feel like I worked hard for this fifth place,” said van Garderen, who added that he felt badly about Bardet’s unfortunate puncture.
Predictably, Bardet was less sanguine about the outcome.
“Three weeks of nonstop work and now this. … Everything got broken to pieces with two kilometers to go,” he said. “It didn’t go well today. I didn’t have any news until I punctured. That’s sport.
“To miss the podium by two seconds is really frustrating. When you cross the line, it’s a maximum effort by everyone. I had never ridden a time trial that long, but I think that without my puncture I would have secured my fifth place.”