No rider can dish out pain to the peloton quite like the Panzerwagen, Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), and his day-long breakaway as pilot to Julian Alaphilippe's stoker on stage 16 of the Tour de France was a prime exhibition of the German's strengths. Although the attack was always doomed to fail, Martin kept the stage moving at a brisk 46kph pace, and for that he's done more than enough to earn Cyclingnews' Rider of the Day.
Martin hit out on the 209km stage from Moirans-en-Montagne in the Jura Mountains to Berne, Switzerland, bringing Alaphilippe along for company and moral support, but the Frenchman had little to contribute to the pace making after spending the previous day in the breakaway.
But Martin was undaunted by the distance and the fact that there were several teams itching for the last chance for a bunch sprint before the Alps. He just kept pounding out his tempo, perhaps humming Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" as he slayed kilometre after kilometre.
"It was quite a difficult stage, but Tony [Martin] has won stages like this before," his directeur sportif Brian Holm said. "[Julian] Alaphilippe being out there wasn't really part of our master plan, especially after yesterday and maybe he will regret hanging out there. Tony said that every day they have been chasing for a bunch sprint and 'today they can chase me'. They did, and it looked like he was hurting everybody."
Indeed, by the time the peloton got to the single climb on the course, the Cote de Muhleberg, 183.5km into the stage, Martin had broken Alaphilippe, and the peloton behind was already shedding riders, so brutal had the pace been in pursuit of the escapees.
While Martin's escape was swept up soon after, the German ensured that no rider had an easy time, and it earned him our Cyclingnews Rider of the Day prize.
Laura Weislo says: "Tony Martin is so smooth and powerful on the bike, and his face so impassive, that it's difficult to judge the speed he's laying down. You have to look past him to the anguished faces of the rest of the peloton to see just how hard he is going.
"It's been a difficult Tour de France so far, every day with the exception of the interminable stage 3 to Angers where the peloton trudged along at 34kph, and there are plenty of tired legs in the peloton. Martin seems immune to fatigue, and cranked out a pace that some riders would struggle to manage for an individual time trial for a whopping 175km. It wasn't exactly flat roads or a strong tailwind, either. Martin did this on pure willpower and is well deserving of whatever small accolades we can provide."
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