German time-trial specialist Tony Martin powered to victory on the 20th stage of the Tour de France on Saturday – a 54-kilometre time trial – and, in doing so, took his second stage win, and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team's third, at this year's race.
"A stage win in the Tour de France is always special," a delighted Martin said. "The pressure was important for me today. Everyone expected me to win, so I had to try to step up. But, to be honest, it's usually like that before every time trial. Over time, however, I've learned to use that pressure to my advantage."
The time trial world champion led the stage at each of the intermediate checkpoints; his victory was never really in doubt. He steadily pulled away from second-placed Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano), and had taken 1:39 out of the Dutch time-trial champion by the finish in Périgueux. NetApp's Jan Barta finished in third place, 1:47 behind Martin, while fourth-placed Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was confirmed as the winner of the Tour de France, easily having defended his race lead.
Martin and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team's Tour had started badly when, on the first stage, between Leeds and Harrogate, in Yorkshire, Mark Cavendish crashed in the bunch sprint, and was forced to quit the race with an injured shoulder.
"Our morale was really low after the first stage when "Cav" crashed and couldn't continue, but it also gave us strength to really stick together as a team," said Martin, "and to fight for Cav, to always try to be at the front of the race, and to try to win stages."
It's exactly what they did, with first Matteo Trentin winning stage 7 from a breakaway, and then Martin winning alone after a day-long solo break on stage nine. The German's time trial victory on Saturday brought their tally to three, and there's one more opportunity to add to it on Sunday on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, where Cavendish's lead-out man - a freed-up Mark Renshaw - is likely to be in the mix in what is almost certain to be a bunch sprint.
"I'm happy that we've been able to work so well together and win three stages, as well as Mark Renshaw having finished high up on a number of stages, too," said Martin. "I think we can be really proud of our Tour de France this year."
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