While up-and-coming time trialist Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) took the lead at the Vuelta a España for a day, three-time World Champion time trialist Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) continues proving at the Tour du Poitou-Charentes that he's back on track. Following their early crashes at the Tour de France in July, both pre-Worlds favourites look ready for a duel at the individual time trial World Championship next month in Richmond, Virginia.
Dumoulin was part of the massive pile up during stage 3 on the way to the Mur de Huy, whereas Martin's exit from the Tour was much more noticed as he left the race at the end of stage 6 in Le Havre the day after he took the yellow jersey for the first time in his career through the cobbled stage in Cambrai.
"My collarbone was in a lot of pieces," Martin told Cyclingnews during the Tour du Poitou-Charentes. "The doctors did a really good job. I had no pain after the surgery. One week after my crash, I was already on the rollers and I was always confident that the timing was good for the Worlds."
The 30-year-old German put the Vattenfall Cyclassics, the Tour du Poitou-Charentes, the GP Plouay, the GP Fourmies, Québec and Montreal WorldTour races on his agenda to gear up for his attempt to claim the rainbow jersey for the fourth time after 2012, 2013 and 2014. Last year, he was deprived of the title by Bradley Wiggins, who had pretty much put his road career to an end. Dumoulin took the bronze medal.
"Dumoulin is for sure the guy I have to look at," Martin told Cyclingnews. "But like in the past, I'll do my things. I'm confident I'll get to the Worlds with a good condition. I'm looking forward to seeing the course in Richmond. It'll be about power, not about climbing. From what I understand it's a nice one, a little bit hilly but not too hard. The team time trial course seems to be a nice one too. Like every time trial longer than 10 kilometers, the 23km TT that we have here at Tour du Poitou-Charentes is an interesting distance for a pre-Worlds test."
While Dumoulin surrendered his Vuelta jersey to Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) up the climb to Alto de Cazorla on Thursday, Martin finished third in the stage 4 time trial in Poitou-Charentes, claiming the race leader's jersey along the way.
Martin covered the course in 27:53, four seconds slower than stage winner Adriano Malori and three seconds behind runner-up Jonathan Castroviejo, Malori's Movistar teammate.
The time trial was the second of two stages on Thursday. The peloton first completed 98.6km Stage 3, which ended in a bunch sprint. Marc Sarreau (FDJ) won the stage, while Tyler Farrar (MTN - Qhubeka) finished 2nd and Michael Van Staeyen (Cofidis) rounded out the Stage 3 podium.
Martin put himself into position to grab the race lead in the time trial after his team blew up the field in crosswinds during stage 2, leading to a stage win for Etixx-QuickStep's Matteo Trentin. Martin finished in the lead group of 16 riders that put a handful of seconds on the other general classification contenders.
Martin told Cyclingnews after the stage 4 podium that although he was disappointed not to win the time trial, the team's goal coming into the race was to with the overall so he would continue to focus on that. In a statement released by his team, Martin said he was happy with Thursday's performance.
"Even in the first days here, I really went full gas and didn't save any energy, just to see where my level was," Martin said. "So, I was expecting to not be super fresh today. But considering everything I am really satisfied about my time trial. I had good power, good feeling on the bike, so I am happy. I am in the right way to get ready for the next races and the big goal at the end of the season. Now I am also race leader. Tomorrow there will be a hilly stage, so not so easy."