Tony Martin won Sunday's Stage 9 of the 2014 Tour de France in dominant fashion, taking to the Vosges climbs with Alessandro De Marchi before going solo on the flats toward Mulhouse, as shared by Bicycling Magazine on Twitter:
The time-trial specialist held off a challenge from a large chasing group on the slopes of Le Markstein and never looked back, taking the top spot in the mountain classification in the process.
|2014 Tour de France Stage 9 Results|
|3||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC||+2:45|
|6||Jose Joaquin Rojas||Movistar||+2:45|
Sunday's stage looked particularly inviting for adventurous riders looking to be part of an early flight, as the peloton took an off-day ahead of Monday's first real high-mountain race.
The pack saw a flurry of attacks in the opening kilometers, with even green-jersey Peter Sagan trying his hand at a break. A total of 25 riders separated themselves from the peloton on the first climb, and when De Marchi tried to go solo, Martin followed.
The duo took 20 seconds on the descent and quickly found the perfect pace, opening up a huge lead over the chasing group. Vincenzo Nibali ordered his troops to lay low ahead of the stage toward La Planche des Belles Filles, and the peloton quickly lost sight of the head of the race.
De Marchi accelerated near the summit of every climb, his eyes set on the polka-dot jersey, and time-trial specialist Martin in turn took the points in the intermediary sprints.
In the background, Tony Gallopin virtually closed the gap with yellow jersey holder Nibali, as shared by Le Tour de France:
Le Markstein was the first category-one climb of the 2014 Tour de France, and one of the final slopes the riders would face before the flats toward Mulhouse. Martin chose this spot to go solo, knowing his time-trial prowess could see him through past the mountains.
De Marchi had no answer, and Martin quickly opened up a safe lead, as shared by OPQS Cycling Team:
Der Panzerwagen was now unleashed, and his hellish pace at the front of the race was more than impressive. Cyclo-cross champion Zdenek Stybar was very impressed by the German:
Gallopin and his Lotto-Belisol teammates continued to battle the peloton in the background, trying desperately to keep the French rider in the yellow ahead of Bastille Day. It was clear Martin would win the stage, and the cameras then turned toward the battle for yellow.
Nibali and his Astana teammates gave Lotto-Belisol free range, however, knowing full well the situation will drastically change on Monday. The fans on the side of the road went berserk at the prospect of a Frenchman wearing the yellow on Bastille Day, giving new energy to Gallopin in the final 10 kilometers.
Martin finished solo, while Fabian Cancellara won the sprint for second ahead of Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet. The peloton was unable to close the three-minute gap on the chasing group, giving Gallopin the yellow ahead of Monday's stage.
|General Classification (Yellow Jersey)|
|5||Richie Porte||Team Sky||+3:32|
|Point Classification (Green Jersey)|
|8||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC||65|
|Mountain Classification (Polka-Dot Jersey)|
|3||Alessandro De Marchi||Cannondale||17|
|8||Sylvain Chavanel||I AM Cycling||6|
Monday's stage toward La Planche des Belles Filles will give the peloton its first real taste of the French high mountains, and event organizers are expecting a fast and furious race. With an uphill finish and several contenders for the general classification needing to make up some ground, the day should be filled with plenty of attacks.
Gallopin will enjoy his day in the sun, but facing four category-one climbs and superb climbers like Nibali and Alberto Contador, his chances of wearing the yellow for more than one day seem slim at best.