Tony Martin took the Stage 20 time trials in convincing fashion at the 2014 Tour de France, but it wasn't nearly enough to take the momentum away from Vincenzo Nibali's inevitable victory in Sunday's finale.
Known for his dominance in the individual time trials, Martin made sure that Saturday was his day. He finished more than a minute-and-a-half ahead of everyone else, leaving the rest of the field in the dust.
Not to be outdone, Nibali did well to hold on to his sizable lead and kept away from any major slip-ups. With a fourth-place finish for the day, he remained more than seven minutes ahead of second place and in firm control of the yellow jersey.
Here's a look at the standings from Stage 20 as well as the general classification.
|6||Tejay van Garderen||BMC||+2:08|
|8||Sylvain Chavanel||IAM Cycling||+2:36|
|5||Tejay van Garderen||BMC||+11:44|
|9||Laurens ten Dam||Belkin||+21:24|
Martin and Nibali weren't the ones generating talk and setting the pace early on Saturday. Instead, Danny Pate and Czech Republic native Jan Barta emerged in the opening segments.
But it was short-lived. Once Martin took to his noticeably unique bicycle as captured by Bicycling Magazine, it was all but over:
Barta's first checkpoint set the pace, but Martin came around to simply crush said pace, per cycling journalist Michael Hutchinson:
Tony Martin 1st at 1st check at 19km -- 35s ahead of Barta. That's quite impressive -- he's also 1.10 in front of Durbridge.— Michael Hutchinson (@Doctor_Hutch) July 26, 2014
The German going by the nickname Der Panzerwagen further proved that he's perhaps the best trial specialist in the sport. He nabbed a silver at the 2012 London Games but has won three straight time-trial titles since 2011.
This year also marked the third time in the last four years that Martin took the lone individual time trial stage at the Tour de France.
So, it comes as no surprise that the speedster isn't lacking in confidence, per Betway:
Martin added more on his big win, per the race's official website.
"I had a really good race today," Martin said. "I was happy when I saw the course. I still had the power after three weeks so it would have been hard for anyone to fight against me."
It was certainly Martin's day as told by his lopsided victory, but that doesn't take away from the importance of Saturday for Nibali.
With a massive lead over the rest of the field entering the second-to-last stage, Nibali could have given his rivals a glimmer of opportunity entering Sunday's finale. But instead, he remained in the top five and finished less than two minutes behind Martin's incredible time.
Here's Nibali finishing his race Saturday, per the race's official Twitter:
The Italian winning this year's Tour de France has looked more and more inevitable by the stage, but all it takes is one bad crash or poor time to make room for a comeback.
That looks to be out of the picture now, with Nibali sporting an insane near-eight-minute lead after four stage victories throughout the countrywide race.
The Italian's impending victory would end a tough drought for one of cycling's most well-represented nations. The last man from Italy to win a Tour de France was Marco Pantani in 1998.
On Sunday throughout a most likely leisurely run through Paris, it would take the most shocking of circumstances for Nibali not to be crowned champion of the 2014 Tour de France.
There is still plenty to watch for in terms of podium finishes, with Jean Christophe Peraud, Thibaut Pinot and Alejandro Valverde all within more than two minutes from each other behind Nibali. Just 32 seconds separate Peraud and Pinot for second place.
At this point, those races will ring in the conclusion of this year's event in a more exciting fashion than the race for the yellow jersey—which is a testament to just how dominant Nibali has been.