Martin Wins Stage 5 of Tour, Takes Yellow Jersey
Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) has won Stage 4 of the Tour de France. Der Panzerwagen powered away from the lead group with three km left to win the flat, cobbled, 223.5-km run from Seraing, Belgium to Cambrai, France in 5:28:58. John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) outsprinted Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) for second at 0:03. Martin’s victory has given him the maillot jaune.
Philippe, King of the Belgians, lowered the start flag in Seraing. Almost immediately, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), and Frederic Brun (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) sallied off of the front. The escapees’ lead maxed out at 9:10 at 37 km.
As the peloton approached the first of seven sections of cobbles, riders battled for position. This caused the field to accelerate. When the race reached the first section at 101.5 km, the break led the bunch by 1:25. Sky did most of the work in the pursuit. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) changed bikes. The peloton slowed, and the break’s advantage went back up to 3:55 at 115.5 km. With 40 km remaining, as the field approached the third section of cobbles, the bunch made the catch.
The GC men and the pave specialists went to the front and accelerated. With 23 km left, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) punctured on the penultimate section of cobbles. The Frenchman had two mechanicals in short order and lost three minutes, effectively ending his attempt to return to the podium in this year’s Tour. Martin punctured, but Matteo Trentin, his teammate, exchanged bikes with him, and the German got back on with the help of teammates Julien Vermote and Michal Golas. Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), a cobbles specialist par excellence, suffered a mechanical and saw his chance to win the stage go up the road.
On the last section of cobbles, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who made hay on the pave last year and who was consistently aggressive today, attacked. The peloton reeled in the Italian, but Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) countered, perhaps to set up Martin.
Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome (both from Sky) accelerated. Nibali, Degenkolb, Tejay van Garderen (BMC), and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) joined the pair, but Quintana and Contador were dropped. Froome attacked, but the rest of the group caught him with 7.5 km left, and Quintana and Contador got back on.
For a time, the lead group appeared headed for a sprint finish, but with three km left, Martin made his move. Sky had no interest in chasing as the British squad was uninterested in defending the yellow jersey so early in the Tour. Eventually, Giant-Alpecin began to chase, but Martin stayed clear.
Circumstance and preparation worked for Martin in the finale. The German had attempted to take the yellow jersey since Stage 1. "I wasn't really thinking about anyone following me when I attacked," Martin said.
"Maybe everyone saw when I had a flat tire in the last cobbled section. I had to change to Matteo's bike. Maybe they thought I was more on the limit than what I actually was when I launched in that moment. It's also possible no one expected such an early attack. I think inside four km to go everyone was on their hands and knees. It was just the right moment for me to try my chance. I found some extra power. I got a good gap. I knew this finale really well. I was here before for training for two days. I did 180 km of the stage. I knew every little detail. I knew if I could make it to the last km, which was a little more technical with the cobbles and the hard left hand turn, I would have a chance. My goal was the last corner, and somehow I made it," Martin explained.
"I'm thrilled about my solo victory and my race leadership. It really surprised me that I could make it, because I was really tired after chasing back after the flat. The last three days I missed the yellow by just a few seconds. My goal was to get it on the first day and I was sad I missed it. I came closer, but I never had it. Yesterday was super hard. I knew the chance was there, but it was obviously not my kind of stage. So, the pressure was getting bigger and bigger. Today I was really motivated. Today's stage suited me much better so I can play with my power. I am more of a classics style rider than a climber. For today's stage I had all the support from the team and I really wanted to get the yellow for me and especially for the team. Crossing the line in first, knowing I won the stage but also that I got yellow, makes me super happy that I can give everything back to the team that they gave me in the last days. I am also proud to wear this yellow jersey for Germany. I was proud to wear my German TT Champion jersey in the opening time trial, and now I can show the German fans something else special with my GC lead. This moment has been wonderful and I really hope this brings more people into being fans of cycling, including those of the German public."
"The goal is now to keep the yellow jersey as many days as we can going into the rest day. There are a few hard finals, but I believe I can stay in front with the support of my team. We also have the team time trial coming up. I think we have a fighting chance of holding on to this jersey until the first rest day. Of course, I think we also have chances to fight for good stage results in the next days. As you could see from my support today we have nine strong guys at this race. We will do our best to defend this jersey and go for more good results."
In the overall, Martin leads Froome by 0:12 and van Garderen by 0:25. Stage 5 will probably not change this state of affairs. The rolling, 189.5-km run from Arras to Amiens will feature a technical but flat run to the finish. Who will win? Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step)? Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis)? Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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