When Fabian Cancellara posted the fastest time in yesterday’s final stage of the Tour de Suisse, many thought the result was a foregone conclusion. On many occasions in the past, the Swiss rider has gone out early, improved the previous best times and then hung on to the top of the leaderboard until the end. However, Tony Martin threw a spanner in the works for the Olympic and world time trial champion, beating him by a cool 17seconds and winning the final stage of the race.
“When Fabian goes out with the intention of winning, normally he will win. I am a bit surprised and I am proud to have beaten an athlete as strong as him,” the smiling HTC Columbia competitor said after the stage.
Martin admitted that his rival’s reputation was a little intimidating, and that it was hard to believe that he could be beaten. “It is difficult, for sure. In the past you know when you are on the start with Cancellara, the best you can do is second place. I have proved now that I can also win.”
The German suggested that the recent accusations about using a concealed motor may have taken their toll on the Saxo Bank competitor. “For sure there was a lot of discussion about Fabian, and for sure it was not easy for him. Maybe now he will get stronger in his head and go to a higher level in the Tour.”
Martin finished third in the opening time trial in Lugano, conceding three seconds to Cancellara and finishing on practically the same time as runner-up Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas). He then took over the race lead on stage three to Schwarzenburg, but lost it three days later on the tough mountain stage to La Punt. He admitted that was a difficult moment for him.
“It is true I felt very wasted and I had to really dig deep in my heart to resist,” he said. “This contributes to my surprise today at winning the time trial. It also is a nice sign before the Tour de France.
“I actually think I was not so strong at the beginning of today’s time trial,” he continued. “I lost some time at the beginning of the climb. I think it was not my best, but maybe it was one of the best descents I ever did. I won a lot of time, and I was really happy about the second part of the race. I have to look at what I did wrong in the first part. But at the end it doesn’t matter, it was a nice race and I am really happy with the result.”
Perhaps the only rider who was more pleased with how the time trial went was Fränk Schleck. He placed 13th in the test, conceding 1'14" seconds to Martin, and scooped victory in the general classification.
Schleck said afterwards that the performance was unexpected. Martin echoed this, but was happy for the Luxembourg rider. “I am a bit surprised but I am very happy for Fränk Schleck as he is a good friend,” he said. “His TT was very spectacular – it showed that a climber has that force and the motivation to go very hard and to succeed.”
The next stage race for Martin will be the Tour de France, where he wore the white jersey as best young rider for several days last year. He will go there with set goals in mind; some will be personal objectives, while others will be for others on the team.
“I will target the prologue and also the big time trial. They are really important for me,” he stated. “Last year I found that I was not very strong in the third week, so I’ll mainly target the time trials.
“On the other hand, I will have to work for Michael Rogers, and for Cav [Mark Cavendish] in the sprints. So I have to do some different exercises. We will have to look from day to day and see how the conditions are. I’ll be riding to support Michael in the mountains, but then we have to look at where I am in the GC and to find a good solution.”