Tour de France: Tony Martin wins in Mulhouse

It was a day of Tony Awards on the Tour de France's second day in the Vosges. Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) reprised a familiar role in a new setting to solo to victory in Mulhouse at the end of stage 9, while Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) ensured that he will wear the yellow jersey on Bastille Day after finishing in the chasing group.

The main players in the fight for final overall victory, meanwhile, called something of a truce, with the Astana team of Vincenzo Nibali leading the peloton home 7:45 down on Martin and seemingly happy to concede yellow to Gallopin, at least temporarily.

Martin went clear in the company of Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) on the descent of the first climb, the Col de la Schlucht, and then dropped the Italian on the principal difficulty of the day, the category 1 Markstein, with some 59 kilometres remaining.

The German spent nearly 150 kilometres off the front all told, on an exacting day that featured no fewer than six categorised climbs, yet he still managed to ride at a startling average speed of 40.1kph and finish 2:45 clear of Gallopin's sizable chasing group, which had closed to a little over a minute before his attack on the Markstein.

"I knew there were 28 guys around 30 seconds down and if they chased us down, it would have been hard because there would have been counter-attacks," said Martin. "I didn't want to play those silly games so I went full gas."

Photo: Tim de Waele

Tony Gallopin had little time for such games, either. The Frenchman started the day 3:27 off the overall lead and sensed his opportunity when an attack from Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on the Col du Wettstein saw the large chase group form 40 kilometres into the stage.

The 28-man group proved somewhat unwieldy and difficult to manage, but Gallopin had strongmen like Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Tiago Machado (NetApp-Endura) on board, as well as an important ally of circumstance in Pierre Rolland. One of four Europcar riders in the group, Rolland was able to peg back five minutes on Nibali, Contador et al to move up to 8th place overall and breathe life back into his bid for a podium place.

Gallopin moved into the virtual overall lead with 70 kilometres remaining and to no discernible reaction from the yellow jersey group. When the cohesion in his group stalled on the long drop into Mulhouse, Gallopin moved to the front to force the pace, but in truth, there was little need. A brief probe from Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) apart, the overall contenders held fire and Astana seemed happy to concede the yellow jersey to Gallopin.

"It's indescribable," Gallopin said after donning the maillot jaune. "It was easier said than done to get into the break today, and I only just managed it. I'd thought about taking yellow for the past few days but I still didn’t think it was possible."

It was a poignant day, too, for the Gallopin family, and in particular, Tony's uncle Alain, a directeur sportif at Trek Factory Racing. He was the soigneur to the late Laurent Fignon when he claimed victory into Mulhouse in 1992 with a daring solo move not at all dissimilar to Tony Martin's.

"It's an emotional day for our family," Alain Gallopin said. "I shed a few tears to think that Tony has taken yellow in Mulhouse, in the very place where Laurent won his last big race. It's too much."