La Vuelta a España Stage 6: Panzerwagen Puts on a Show Solo
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Tony "Panzerwagen" Martin showed his ability to time trial for an entire road stage on Thursday. UCI World TT Champion Martin attacked just kilometers into the 174.3km Stage 6 of La Vuelta a España, and no rider was able to bridge to him for the breakaway of the day.
Martin gained more than a 7 minute advantage just 26km into the stage. However, the peloton slowly reeled him back kilometer-by-kilometer. Martin refused to go down without perhaps one of the biggest, longest fights of his career. Martin had just a 15" gap with 15km to go, and it seemed he would be caught well before the line for a predicted bunch sprint. But the German rider kept on fighting. The gap dropped to 8" with less than 13km to go, but he somehow managed to hold his power and bring the gap back up to 15" with 5.8km to go. Suddenly, it seemed Martin had a chance to make it to the line after an amazing battle in the wind.
Martin had a 9" gap going into the final kilometer, and he refused to give up. The peloton fast approached behind him, with leadout trains scrambling for position in case of a catch. Martin, despite an amazing effort, was caught within 30 meters of the finish line. He still managed a 7th place finish in the stage.
Michael Morkov (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) won the stage, with Maximiliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) 2nd and Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard) 3rd. Gianni Meersman of OPQS was also just behind Martin, in 8th place.
After a monstrous effort by Martin, OPQS looks next to a 205.9km Stage 7 on Friday.
"It was an unusual time trial of almost four hours," Martin said. "I decided to enter the breakaway to try and protect the team. Because even if I was caught, in the final we will also have Gianni Meersman and Andrew Fenn able to do something good in the sprint. So, I decided to go and suddenly I was alone but I took immediately a few minutes. At that point I said, why not? Actually I think it was a good move. I always went pretty good. I have to say the tailwind helped me. Without it, there was no chance to go until the end. In the final the gap was really small. At 10km to go they were really close, and I thought about giving up. But no, I decided to relaunch the action and then I started thinking when they couldnt close the gap that maybe I can do it after all. But, I was tired with 5km to go, the parcour was hard in the final and worked against me with some small uphills, and also the peloton was going full gas. I stayed focused on the finish line. It was a strange feeling. I saw the stripe of the finish line and could hear the peloton behind at the same time. But I was really going all out with my legs. I couldn't go any faster than I did in the last 200 meters. Unfortunately, they caught me. As usual when you do something like that it's always bittersweet. From one end you think you could have won with a bit more luck. On the other hand I felt like a winner. Everybody wanted to talk with me after the finish. I had the feeling I did something great and difficult. I also went to the podium for the combativity award. It was really special to be there in front of the public. If I want to think positively it was also great training for the World Championships. The line between doing something super and losing is really thin in this sport, but you have to try. I think it was the first time I did a breakaway like this, especially for so long. Even if I didn't win I will have it in my memories for a long time."
Martin also was appreciative of his team, as the OPQS team car was a constant presence giving him encouragement during his solo breakaway attempt.
"The team supported me really well," Martin said. "Rik Van Slycke was following me and always encouraging," Martin said. "We never lost control and we were able to handle the effort during the race. I really want to thank the team for the support for all those kilometers."