Tour de France Stage 3: Martin 2nd GC After Up-and-Down, Chaotic Stage
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Tony Martin gave all to try and wear the yellow jersey after a chaotic, undulating 159.5km Tour de France Stage 3, from Antwerpen to Huy, on Monday. The German rider was within a second of accomplishing his goal. The overall lead went to 2nd place stage finisher Chris Froome (Team Sky), as Martin earned a 26th place finish (+40"). Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) attacked in the steepest section of the Mur de Huy finale to win solo. Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R - La Mondiale) finished 3rd.
Rigoberto Uran was the top finisher in the stage for Etixx - Quick-Step, in 19th place (+34").
As a result of the finish three Etixx - Quick-Step riders are now in the top 10 of the overall classification. Uran is 7th, 34 seconds down from Froome. Stybar is 10th, 1'04" down in the GC.
One of the key moments in the race was a big crash with more than 50km to go at high speed. Several riders were caught in the crash, including yellow jersey wearer Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). There was another smaller crash not long after, which involved Rigoberto Uran and Michal Golas. As a result of the first big crash, the race was initially neutralized and then stopped for 17 minutes by Le Tour race organizers.
A new start was then given with 50km to go, though the pace truly picked up to race speed with 44km to go.
Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo wasted no time pushing the pace and split the peloton temporarily. However, with 30km to go after the intermediate sprint, the race came back together. No attacks stuck until the peloton reached the Mur de Huy, though the riders on the front set the pace high enough to shed riders kilometer-by-kilometer. Cancellara was included in the riders who were off the back in the finale.
Several of Etixx - Quick-Step remained in the front group going into the last kilometers, with Golas and Julien Vermote helping to guide the group. Kwiatkowski initially led the peloton on to the foot of the climb, but was unable to maintain contact after working all day in support of Martin.
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to Stage 4, from Seraing to Cambrai, on Tuesday. This stage features the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix along its 223.5km of total distance. There are a total of seven sectors for a total of 13 kilometers. Six of these sectors are within a 30 kilometer span of the stage, with the last sector at the 210.5 kilometer mark.
"Like yesterday, the team was always around me," Martin said. "I was pretty nervous as was everyone in the peloton, as it always is in the first week at Le Tour. The team rode 100 percent today for me, especially Kwiatkowski. He was unbelievable. After everything I did for him in the past years, he gave it back in the last two days. It's amazing for me and I want to thank him as the World Champion for being such a supportive teammate the whole race. The story of today started with the big crash. Everything was neutralized. I was a bit confused as to what was going on, if they would neutralize longer or just for a moment. I heard about the big crash, and all the riders who went down, and I was sad about it. I was hoping for a big fight for the yellow jersey. I was close to wearing yellow today, but if I were to have been this close with an even bigger fight it would be even nicer. I wish a speedy recovery to all the riders who were involved. As for the rest of the race, it was really hard even compared to yesterday. It was not just the Mur de Huy. The other climbs before were really up-and-down, with small roads. I felt already in the last 20 kilometers that I was pretty tired. Maybe it is because of all the chaos of the last two days. I couldn't sleep so well yesterday. It was not my day today and I really had to suffer. On the last kilometer on the Huy i was dying. I was really fighting to survive. I was looking around the corner and looking for the sign with the time. It was around 30 seconds and still 100 meters to go. It felt so long, one of the longest feeling 100 meters of my career. The staff told me I was close to Froome with yellow, and I was a bit surprised. I kept giving all in function of limiting the gap for the stage of tomorrow. So, I am disappointed, but also quite happy because I didn't expect to even be this close. I am looking forward to tomorrow. The whole team is motivated for the cobbles and we will again fight for yellow."
"It was a high speed crash, which is already dangerous," Etixx - Quick-Step team doctor Helge Riepenhof said. "Luckily they didn't hit any objects in the road, which is always much worse. So at the end of the day it's road rash, but road rash at high speed is painful. Michal Golas's left shoulder is hurt, but again it is just the skin and he is bruised. So he is a little sore and will suffer in the next days. But he'll be okay. As for Rigoberto Uran, he has a contusion on the back, just above his pelvis, so in other words his lower back. It is quite sore because of the position on the bike. He puts a lot of pressure and tension in this area. The muscles are a bit torn as well. He will also suffer some, but he will be at the start tomorrow."