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Tour de France: Tony Martin wins cobbled stage 4 in Cambrai

After an opening three days replete with frustration, Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) expunged his woes on stage 4 of the Tour de France with a daring late attack that saw him move into the yellow jersey for the first time in his career.

The German finished second in the opening day time trial before missing out on yellow the next day due to a botched Etixx sprint, and ended stage 3 second on GC by a solitary second behind Chris Froome (Team Sky).

It even looked like he would have to endure further frustration as he suffered a mechanical and had to change bikes in the latter phases of a cobbled stage that failed to serve up drama of the proportions of last year.

But with 3.5 kilometres remaining, and on the bike of teammate Matteo Trentin, the German made a bold attack, the kind only he can make stick, and punched the air in sheer delight as he crossed the line. He now leads the overall by 12 seconds over Froome and 25 seconds over Tejay van Garderen (BMC).

"Having a flat tire and changing the bike, with the wrong position, I was just thinking to finish the stage and look forward to the next stages," Martin said. "Suddenly, five kilometres to the finish, we were all together and everyone was looking at each other, nobody really wanted to pull, so I just decided to give it a chance and to go for it, and somehow I found some power and I made it.

"I don’t know what happened in the back but I was so nervous, I was just pulling. I don’t know how many watts I pulled but it was more than I ever did. Now I am so happy, and a thousand thanks to my team for supporting me the whole week."

Behind him, John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) beat Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Greg van Avermaet (BMC) to the line in what many would have predictied would be the sprint for the win.

Whereas last year the pavé served up one of the most brutally chaotic days of racing in recent Tour history, today’s stage, though furiously contested, wasn’t blown to pieces in the same way. Though there was some moisture on the early sectors, the rain-soaked, mud-caked figures of last year were replaced by dust-encrusted but dry faces.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was aggressive throughout, earning himself the combatively award, but was unable to inflict the damage he managed last year, perhaps due to the more clement conditions. Froome was up there and even attacked himself, while Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) hung on to make sure there was no movement between the so-called ‘fab four’. There was little