Tony Martin comfortably won Saturday's Stage 20 of the 2014 Tour de France, this year's only individual time trial of the event.
The world champion in the discipline almost made the competition look bad, with his closest rival losing over a minute-and-a-half.
Vincenzo Nibali avoided crashes and mechanical issues to keep his big lead in the general classification, and barring divine intervention, he will win his first Tour de France on Sunday.
|6||Tejay van Garderen||BMC||+2:08|
|7||Jean Christophe Peraud||AG2R||+2:27|
|8||Sylvain Chavanel||IAM Cycling||+2:36|
Danny Pate was the first rider to put up a solid time, but fans were eagerly awaiting the start of Martin and Tom Dumoulin, the two top specialists remaining in the field. Der Panzerwagen in particular was the absolute favourite, with the course tailor-made for the powerful German.
His warm-up was seriously impressive, as shared by Le Tour de France:
Jan Barta dove under the time of Pate on the first checkpoint, but his lead was short-lived. Martin completely obliterated the rest of the peloton, taking a massive lead on the first checkpoint:
As shared by OPQS Cycling Team, his dominance was almost comical:
Der Panzerwagen was very confident in his abilities, as reported by Betway:
Martin kept the pace incredibly high, and there was never any doubt who would win Saturday's stage. Fans and pundits now turned their attention to the battle for the general classification, with several of the top riders eyeing this stage as their final chance to rise up the leaderboard.
Tejay van Garderen took a solid start, quickly passing climber Bauke Mollema, but the top times early came from Thibaut Pinot, Jean Christophe Peraud and Leopold Konig.
Nibali promised fireworks on Saturday, but he took a very cautious approach in the first sector, via OPQS Cycling team:
Nibali 48” down on Martin at the first checkpoint, 9th provisionally #TDF— OPQS Cycling Team (@opqscyclingteam) July 26, 2014
Alejandro Valverde lost a lot of time during Thursday's stage, and his hopes of ending on the podium took a massive hit in the process. The veteran Spaniard is a solid climber but not a particularly established time trialist, and it showed on Saturday.
Valverde couldn't gain a second on his competitors in the first sector and started losing time in the second, via the Ottawa Citizen's Glen McGregor:
Old Man Valverde is fading fast in time trial. Killing me in my #tdf pool.— Glen McGregor (@glen_mcgregor) July 26, 2014
Peraud kept up his high pace and looked like a safe bet to end the day in second place, but his task was made more difficult by an ill-timed puncture, per Le Tour de France:
Romain Bardet also suffered a puncture and lost his fifth spot in the general classification to Van Garderen as a result of it. Valverde regained his composure in the final sector, staying ahead of the American rider from BMC.
Peraud's time trial was truly impressive, recovering nicely from his puncture. Holding a 22-second lead at the start of the final sector, the gap was simply too big for Pinot to overcome.
The youngster will still finish the 2014 Tour de France on the podium, giving the French crowds their biggest hope for a future Tour de France win in a very long time.
But Nibali's lead was never truly threatened, and the Shark of Messina kept improving over the course of the stage, finishing with the fourth-best time to increase his gigantic lead even more.
Stage winner Tony Martin told VeloNews he was happy with his performance and that his legs felt surprisingly good after three weeks of racing:
I felt quite good actually. I thought I was more tired. I managed to keep a good tempo from start to finish, I didn’t falter, I’m glad about my performance.
It’s true I knew the course well and I had to wait for two weeks to get there. Luckily I had won a stage already so it eased the pressure
|2||Jean Christophe Peraud||AG2R||+7:52|
|5||Tejay van Garderen||BMC||+11:44|
|9||Laurens ten Dam||Belkin||+21:24|
|7||Greg van Avermaet||BMC Racing||147|
|5||Jean Christophe Peraud||AG2R||85|
|6||Alessandro De Marchi||Cannondale||78|
|10||Tejay van Garderen||BMC||48|
Sunday's final stage will be a relatively short hop to Paris, with the finish line on the iconic Champs-Elysees. Traditionally a stage for the sprinters, this year should be no different, with all of the classifications already decided.
Nibali, Peter Sagan, Rafal Majka and Pinot will crack the champagne early, while the sprint teams will control the peloton all the way to Paris and the finish line.