Tony Martin of Omega Pharma has won his second stage of the 2014 Tour de France with a convincing win in today’s individual time trial in Périgeaux, while Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali is set to make history in Paris tomorrow by becoming just the sixth man to win all three of cycling’s Grand Tours.
The podium will be completed by Jean-Christophe Péraud of AG2R and FDJ.fr’s Thibaut Pinot – the first time two Frenchmen have finished in the top three overall since 1984. Péraud, despite an enforced bike change, took second place from Pinot today, but the latter has the consolation of winning the white jersey of best young rider.
It’s the third time Martin has won an individual time trial in the Tour de France, and his fourth stage win in total, with Stage 9 of this year’s race seeing him hold off the chasing peloton to win in Mulhouse after riding solo for 60 kilometres.
The three-time world time trial champion was always going to be favourite to take today’s 54 kilometre stage from Bergerac and was a convincing winner, with his closest rival, Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Shimano, finishing 1 minute 39 seconds behind, and Jan Barta of NetApp-Endura third, a further 8 seconds back.
Barta’s colleague at the UCI Professional Continental team, Leopold Konig, was fifth this afternoon – the pair separated by Nibali – and moved up to seventh overall, a terrific result for a rider from an outfit making its debut in the race thanks to a wild card entry.
The big battle of the day was between the two riders who preceded champion-in-waiting Nibali onto the course, with Pinot beginning the day just 2 seconds ahead of Péraud after the pair leapfrogged Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde on Thursday.
In the first 33 kilometres of today’s stage, Péraud teased out a few more seconds’ advantage on his rival for the runner-up slot on an undulating parcours, but shortly before the 20 kilometres to go banner, a puncture forced the AG2R rider to change bikes.
He did so without panicking and soon re-established his rhythm, maintaining an advantage over Pinot as he headed over the most difficult of the day’s climbs, the Côte de Coulounieix Chamiers, and towards finishing the race as runner-up to one of the most dominant winners of the race in recent years.
Nibali, winner of four stages in this year’s race, now stands 7 minutes 52 seconds ahead of Péraud, with Pinot a further 32 seconds back in third place.
Stage winner Tony Martin
I was under pressure. Everyone expected me to win. But honestly, it's a bit like that before all the time trials. I've learnt how to deal with this kind of pressure. Especially after my stage win in Mulhouse, I wasn't in the same situation as if all the Tour de France was to be win or lost today.
But a lot of guys couldn't start today, I'm referring to the other two top specialists for time trial, Bradley Wiggins and Fabian Cancellara.
I had a really good race today. 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.
After Mark Cavendish's crash in Stage 1, we were all devastated in the team. But we've found the strength and motivation for working together and we delivered great results. We can be proud of our stage wins.
Vincenzo Nibali, set to be crowned 2014 Tour de France winner tomorrow
I'm very happy. I've felt a bit of tension today but it's normal I guess. I wanted to do well in this time trial. It wasn't an easy course. It was a perfect one for specialists like Tony Martin. I was looking forward to reach the finish. It required a big effort to ride the course. I'm pleased to have set the fourth best time.
I haven't realised yet how big it is to win the Tour de France. I'll keep that for tomorrow. It's difficult to ride the Tour but the beauty of it is to cycle on the Champs-Elysées. That's the biggest memory I've kept from my first participation: the lap of honour, the enormous number of people, Paris' monuments... I'll try to savour my victory as much as I can. Every moment will count.
As for my future, I don't think I'll ride the Vuelta this year. I might give a go to the world championship but I'm not sure if the circuit in Ponferrada suits me really. I've already given a big try last year in Florence... After winning the Vuelta, the Giro and the Tour, I'll keep focusing on Grand Tours but I'd also like to crown it all with a rainbow jersey one year.
Jean-Christophe Péraud, who moved second today
It's an enormous satisfaction. The withdrawals of [Chris] Froome and [Alberto] Contador opened a range of possibilities and I started dreaming about this second place. I'm happy to have achieved that goal. I have a feeling of mission accomplished and a lot of joy today.
Thibaut Pinot, third overall and best young rider
I'm very happy with my time trial. I knew I could do it. I've done decent time trials all year and I was feeling great those past few days so I wasn't worried. I was under pressure but it was a positive pressure.
The crowd was great. I was in a fight against Valverde. I'm only 24 year old, he's older than me. After three weeks of hard racing, it might be an advantage to be young.
As for Jean-Christophe Péraud, I knew he was a serious opponent. I can be satisfied because I'm not that far down on him. I'm happy that we're two Frenchmen on the podium.
To say the truth, I find it hard to realise that I'm on the final podium of the Tour de France. Winning the Tour de France will be another story. Nibali is eight minutes ahead of me, it's enormous! It's still a long way to go...
Alejandro Valverde, who finishes one place off the podium
More or less, I knew what was going on. I was informed of the gaps to my rivals. I was aware all the way long that I was losing the podium. I've tried to do well but my body responded ‘no'.
During the last week, I've suffered the difficult weather conditions we've endured. The rain and cold have taken me down.
When you give it all, you can't have regrets. I feel sorry for my fans that I'm not on the final podium. I also would have liked to be there. But I'm happy.
Fourth of the Tour de France, it's a good result. The Tour de France is important but it's not the only race. I'll go to the Vuelta with ambitions too.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.