Tour de France Stage 4: Tony Attacks for Yellow!
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Tony Martin never gave up hope of wearing the yellow jersey at the 2015 edition of Le Tour de France, and his dream became real on Tuesday. The German rider launched a late solo attack to win 223.5km Stage 4, taking over the race lead at the Tour de France for the first time in his career.
Martin trailed by 3 seconds after Stage 2, and was only down a single second in the overall following the 3rd stage.
Martin now leads by 12" in the overall over Chris Froome (Team Sky). Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) is 3rd, trailing Martin in the overall by 25 seconds.
Giant-Alpecin tried to chase down Martin on the front, but the chase never truly organized in the peloton to bring back Martin before the line in the stage from Seraing to Cambrai.
John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) was 2nd, and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) was the 3rd place finisher.
Martin launched his attack with 3.3km remaining, but had it not been for the help of his teammates, the dream of Martin may have been impossible. Martin suffered a mechanical in the late kilometers, and on a day with seven cobbled sectors any gap to the peloton could be devastating. However, Matteo Trentin selflessly gave Martin his bike to ride immediately, and Julien Vermote as well as Michal Golas paced Martin back to the group before the last cobbled section at 13km to go. Golas then went full gas to bring Martin to the front.
The whole team rode all day in support of Martin, including riders like Zdenek Stybar and Mark Cavendish on the front of the field. Rigoberto Uran was also present. Michal Kwiatkowski and Mark Renshaw helped as well earlier in the race.
An attack by Stybar with about 11km to go brought Froome, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and several riders up the road for a brief moment with him. Tinkoff-Saxo made sure the move came back with 7.8km remaining by putting three riders on the front.
The peloton was already drastically reduced due to the high pace and the difficulty of the parcours, including 13 total kilometers of cobbles. The original breakaway was caught with 40km to go in the stage.
Martin saw his chance with just a few kilometers to go, and gave it everything he had until the finish line as the peloton fell just meters short of catching him. Zdenek Stybar finished 9th.
Tony Martin's victory is the 35th on the road for Etixx - Quick-Step in 2015.
Etixx - Quick-Step still has three riders in the top 10 of the GC after the heroic win of Martin. Uran remains 7th (+46"), and Stybar is 10th (+1'16").
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to 189.5km Stage 5, which is a bunch sprint friendly parcours on paper from Arras to Amiens on Wednesday.
"I wasn't really thinking about anyone following me when I attacked," Martin said. "Maybe everyone saw when I had a flat tyre in the last cobbled section. I had to change to Matteo's bike. Maybe they thought I was more on the limit than what I actually was when I launched in that moment. It's also possible no one expected such an early attack. I think inside 4 kilometers to go everyone was on their hands and knees. It was just the right moment for me to try my chance. I found some extra power. I got a good gap. I knew this finale really well. I was here before for training for two days. I did 180 kilometers of the stage, I knew every little detail. I knew if I could make it to the last kilometer, which was a little more technical with the cobbles and the hard left hand turn, I would have a chance. My goal was the last corner, and somehow I made it. I'm thrilled about my solo victory and my race leadership. It really surprised me that I could make it, because I was really tired after chasing back after the flat. The last three days I missed the yellow by just a few seconds. My goal was to get it on the first day and I was sad I missed it. I came closer, but I never had it. Yesterday was super hard. I knew the chance was there, but it was obviously not my kind of stage. So, the pressure was getting bigger and bigger. Today I was really motivated. Today's stage suited me much better so I can play with my power. I am more of a classics style rider than a climber. For today's stage I had all the support from the team and I really wanted to get the yellow for me and especially for the team. Crossing the line in first, knowing I won the stage but also that I got yellow, makes me super happy that I can give everything back to the team that they gave me in the last days. I am also proud to wear this yellow jersey for Germany. I was proud to wear my German TT Champion jersey in the opening time trial, and now I can show the German fans something else special with my GC lead. This moment has been wonderful and I really hope this brings more people into being fans of cycling, including those of the German public. The goal is now to keep the yellow jersey as many days as we can going into the rest day. There are a few hard finals, but I believe I can stay in front with the support of my team. We also have the team time trial coming up. I think we have a fighting chance of holding on to this jersey until the first rest day. Of course, I think we also have chances to fight for good stage results in the next days. As you could see from my support today we have nine strong guys at this race. We will do our best to defend this jersey and go for more good results."