2014 OPQS Best Moments: Tony Martin Wins Tour de France Stage Solo!
With 2014 nearing its end, and 68 overall OPQS victories (64 road, 1 cyclocross, 3 track), it is time to recap the best 10 moments of the season. While it was difficult to pick just 10 out of a highly successful year, these moments certainly stood out and deserve special mention.
Our sixth best moment is the solo victory of Tony Martin in the 9th Stage of the Tour de France.
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Tony Martin, "King of the Chrono," won the first Tour de France road stage of his career at 170km Stage 9, from Gerardmer to Mulhouse. After escaping with Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), he dropped him on Category 1 Le Markstein (10.8km, 5.4%), and kept enough of a time gap on a chase group and the peloton to cross the finish line alone. Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) was 2nd, and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) 3rd.
"It was a super nice situation for me compared to the time trial victories of my career," Martin said. "I could celebrate my victory in the last few kilometers, because the time to the breakaway was at three minutes. I knew I had the win and I could celebrate with the Sport Director and the Mechanic in the team car behind me. So, it was really incredible. Going into the finish, getting all the attention from all the media and the fans, it's just so big. It took a while to figure out what I did that day."
Martin also gained 18 KOM points on the six climbs of the stage, which put him in the Polka Dot Jersey (King of the Mountains). He even won the Most Combative Award for his outstanding effort.
"It was also nice because we were close to Germany, so there were a lot of German fans present as well," Martin said. "I knew before and I was super motivated. Just taking part in the Tour de France is a big honor and that is motivating enough. But when you are alone in front, and everyone is shouting to you and knows your name, it's special. You start to realize how prestigious and popular the Tour de France is then, and how big you have become because fans come just to see you. It's a nice feeling and a big impression for me"
The two riders went up the road with a 10 second gap just 17.5km into the stage, after the race regrouped from a previous attack. They cooperated well, gaining a big advantage as a result. Martin, three-time UCI World Time Trial Champion, never looked back and kept a good rhythm — and consistent effort — until the end of the stage.
"The decision of where I would attack the group was already made a few weeks before when I saw the stage profile," Martin said. "I knew this day is one of the chances where a breakaway could make it, where the profile is hard but not too hard, which suits my skills. The conditions were also not too hard. It was a big fight at the beginning of the stage, no real breakaway could make a good gap. But like it sometimes is, everyone was fighting on the climb. But at the top a big group was still together. Everyone was looking to each other. So, I thought OK, it's for me to go on the top, make a good descent in an aerodynamic position, and see how far I could go. Alessandro De Marchi went with me.
"It wasn't easy because there was always a group of riders behind me and De Marchi at about 30 seconds," Martin continued. "De Marchi asked me to wait for the break and I said no, I will go full gas ahead because I knew to win out of a big group means I have almost no chance. I'm not a sprinter and everyone knows my only chances to win are to attack and prevent a sprint. So I went with the best solution for me. He decided to still go with me on a 10 or 15km time trial kind of effort. There was at least 100km to go, but our first goal was to leave the break behind us. The gap was less than a minute for a while, so we always thought one or more riders would close the gap, but no one did. The gap got up to three minutes and that was when I was convinced we would make it. It was then up to me to find a way to distance De Marchi, which is not easy. But at that point I was so focused. I knew it was all or nothing and went for it full gas. I was so full of good energy that I almost didn't feel pain any more. I was in that good of a mood to think the stage win was mine. That day was my day to make something great happen."
Martin went into the final 12.5km with an 8'01" advantage on the peloton, 3'10" to a chase group of 17 riders, and 3'01" to two chasers including Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol), who took over the yellow jersey with his aggression.
Inside the final kilometers Martin's advantage further increased, allowing him plenty of time to celebrate before crossing the line as a Tour de France stage winner.
Martin reflected on the overwhelming encouragement and congratulations he received from everyone after his big stage win at Le Tour. He received massive support from riders and fans.
"I know that a lot of fans really say that I deserved this win, but also the other riders and Sport Directors from my team and other teams," Martin said. "They really gave me big respect and were happy for me. It shows a lot of guys like me and my style of riding. I have to say it is flattering and I appreciate it. Everyone knows I work hard to be in good condition. I'm always fighting and working for my teammates. But I also think people remembered past races where I was really close to a victory but didn't make it. For example the stage of La Vuelta in 2013, when I also attacked solo but was caught 50 meters before the line. A lot people were sad for me that I didn't make it that day. On the 9th stage of Le Tour it was a little bit of payback. I think it paid more than everything back, really."
In 2015, Martin said teams will be looking for such an attack for him, but it doesn't mean he will not try.
"I think the way I won the stage shows I can try something similar in other races," Martin said. "I also saw the next day at Le Tour, when I was in front with Michal Kwiatkowski, even if the peloton is really chasing hard, I can still have the chance to make it. For sure they are even more aware of me than ever and won't just let me go, with gaps any bigger than three to five minutes. But I think there can still be opportunities. I really hope I can take the chance if it's there, because now I know I can make it to the finish and the reward is more than worth it."