Team Columbia's Tony Martin has surprised many observers, and also himself, ever since he took the white jersey of best young rider from Czech Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) on stage three to La Grande-Motte. Speaking after the Tour's second mountain stage to Saint Girons, he said he thought he would not be able to hold onto the jersey in the mountains, where Saxo Bank' Andy Schleck was expected to overtake him.
"I really wanted to defend the jersey in the stages leading to Spain, but I'm surprised to still have it in the Pyrenees," Martin told Cyclingnews. "But this also shows that I managed to keep my form from the Tour de Suisse quite well. I still feel very good."
German Martin, 24, has built a solid palmarès since last season, adding stage wins at the Tour de Suisse and the Critérium International to his second overall placing in Switzerland last month. Martin is focused on retaining the white jersey as long as he can, and his Columbia team is fully backing him.
"The white jersey is a great motivation to me, it helps me ride up these mountains. If I explode at some point, then so be it. Still, I have the full support of the team as long as I have the white jersey," he said.
Martin knows that he might be unable to keep the classification lead until Paris up against an overall contender such as Andy Schleck, as well as Liquigas' Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger. Today's stage nine is the last high mountain day until the Alps next week.
"It might be to my advantage that it is another downhill to the finish [today]. I'm hopeful to keep the jersey and look forward to a quiet rest day. I'll be watching Andy Schleck, as he is my greatest rival in the mountains. But I think I've shown that I'm able to hold on when Saxo Bank attacked [yesterday]."
He explained he will shift his focus in the third week of racing. "In the mountains, our leader still is Kim Kirchen. He has much more experience than I do, and I think that he will be a bit stronger than me in the third week."