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As expected, Martin was in a class of his own in the final time trial, beating Dumoulin by 1.39; Peraud and Pinot defended their podium positions while Nibali finished fourth to seal his overall victory

Photo: Sirotti

ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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SOUDAL - QUICK STEP

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TOM DUMOULIN

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TONY MARTIN

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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26.07.2014 @ 18:11 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) proved that he is unrivalled when it comes to time trialling at the moment when he took a dominant victory in the time trial on the penultimate day of the Tour de France, beating fellow specialists Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) and Jan Barta (NetApp-Endura) into the minor podium positions. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished fourth to seal his overall victory while Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) passed Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) in the overall standings, with both Frenchmen finishing on the final podium.

 

Going into the Tour de France time trial, not many were doubting that Tony Martin was going to take his second win in the race but few would have predicted him to crush the opposition the way he did it. On the hilly 54km course from Bergerac to Perigueux, the German was in a class of his own, covering the distance in a time of 1.06.21.

 

That was a massive 1.39 faster than Tom Dumoulin who again proved to be his closest rival in a time trial but while the Dutchman has been close in the past, he had not the slightest hope of glory in the biggest time trial of them all. Another specialist Jan Barta produced a great ride to take third after having led the stage early on.

 

For Vincenzo Nibali, there was no danger to the overall lead but the Italian was clearly intent on proving that he was a deserved winner of the race. Having got his race off to a slow start, he got better and better along the way and gauged his effort perfectly to finish fourth as the best GC rider.

 

The most exciting part was the battle for the podium positions but very early it became clear that Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was no match to Frenchmen Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r). The Spaniard lost ground throughout the entire race and barely ended the stage in the top 30.

 

Very early it was evident that Peraud would take second overall as he had already erased his 13-second deficit in less than 10km but the battle was reopened when the Frenchman suffered an untimely puncture. However, he maintained his speed all the way to the end to finish the stage in 7t and leapfrog his compatriot in the overall standings.

 

His teammate Romain Bardet had similarly bad fortune. On his way to defending his fifth place, he suffered a punctured with less than 5km to go and a quick bike change was not enough for him to save his position. In the end he dropped to 6th in the overall standings, being passed by Tejay van Garderen (BMC) by 2 tiny seconds.

 

The big winner of the day was Leopold König who did the time trial of his life to finish 5th and move from 9th to 7th in the overall standings. The big loser was Bauke Mollema (Belkin) who barely finished in the top 150 and dropped from 7th to 10th.

 

Nibali now just has to get safely through tomorrow’s flat 137.5km from Evry to Paris where the race is expected to end in a bunch sprint. A ceremonial ride through the suburbs will end with a fierce circuit race in the heart of the capital where the big sprinters are expected to battle it out in the most important sprint of the year.

 

A decisive time trial

The Tour de France was set to be decided on the penultimate day with its only time trial. The 54km course from Bergerac to Perigueux was definitely no flat affair as it had three decent climbs and subsequent descents.

 

The first rider down the ramp was Cheng Ji (Giant-Shimano) who took the start in beautiful sunny conditions but the Chinese was not the first rider to reach the finish. Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) led the stage for a few minutes before he was beaten by first Arnaud Demare and then Adrien Petit.

 

Best time for Pate

The Cofidis sprinter enjoyed a few minutes in the hot seat but was firmly beaten by former U23 world champion Danny Pate who posted a time of 1.09.22. He held off the challenges from specialists Svein Tuft and Luke Durbridge who could only manage 2nd and 3rd respectively.

 

The expected challenges from Ramunas Navardauskas and Sebastian Langeveld never materialized and instead it was Maciej Bodnar (Cannondale) who emerged as a rival. The Pole was faster than Pate at the first two time check but at the finish he was 12 seconds slower than Pate.

 

Barta lowers the mark

Gatis Smukulis, Andriy Grivko, Rein Taaramae, Lieuwe Westra and Nelson Oliveira all produced great rides to move into the provisional top 10 while Martin Elmiger had lots of bad luck. The Swiss was about to post the best time but a puncture just before the second time check meant that he could only manage third when he crossed the line.

 

At this point, however, it was clear that Barta was on a good day as the Czech had smashed it at both time checks. When he crossed the line he had lowered Pate’s mark by a massive 1.14.

 

Martin crushes the opposition

Daniel Oss (BMC) got better and better along the way and when he crossed the line, he was a surprising third. Markel Irizar (Trek) did the time trial of his life to slot into second, beating Pate by 22 seconds..

 

All eyes were now on Martin who did a perfect ride. He gained time throughout the entire course to set the fastest time at all check and when he corssed the line he had beaten Barta by a massive 1.47.

 

Good rides by Dumoulin and Chavanel

Martin now faced a nervous wait and could see specialists like Ion Izagirre and Tanel Kangert both be far off the mark. However, his perennial rival Dumoulin did another great performance to slot into second, beating Barta by 8 seconds.

 

Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) bounced back from a disappointing race by taking fourth while Peter Velits (BMC) just made it into the top 10. Michal Kwiatkowski, Michael Rogers, Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte all had disappointing rides to finish far behind.

 

Great performance by König

The GC battle was now on but already at the first check it was clear that Valverde was not in podium contention. The Spaniard had lost time to all his key rivals, including Bardet who did a surprisingly good ride. At that point, Peraud was the best of the GC riders, beating van Garderen by 5 seconds and König by 6 seconds while Nibali was only 9th.

 

König did a fantastic ride to be third at the second check but lost a bit of time in the finale and could only manage 4th when he crossed the line. Meanwhile, the Belkin duo of Laurens Ten Dam and Mollema both had poor rides and they were both passed by König in the overall standings.

 

Bad luck for Bardet

Van Garderen crossed the line in the provisional fifth while all was looking good for Bardet at the third check when he still had 20 seconds in hand over van Garderen. A late puncture, however, meant that he lost 22 seconds in the final section.

 

Valverde crossed the line in a disappointing 25th while Peraud bounced back from a puncture to cross the line in 6th. Pinot did another great time trial as he slotted into the provisional 11th.

 

At the third check, Nibali was only 6 seconds behind Dumoulin and for a moment it seemed that he could take second on the stage. However, he lost ground in the finale and had to settle for fourth.

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