MULHOUSE, France, (Reuters) – Germany’s Tony Martin powered to an impressive victory in the ninth stage of the Tour de France yesterday after a 155-km mountain raid in the Vosges that saw Vincenzo Nibali surrender the yellow jersey to France’s Tony Gallopin.
Time-trial world champion Martin attacked after 15 km and dropped his breakaway companion with just under 60 left to win his third Tour stage following time trial victories in 2011 and 2013.
“It was perfect, there were no mind games in that breakaway,” Martin told a news conference.
“I just had to go, I knew I could ride very fast. Today everything worked perfectly, I had really really good legs, there were good conditions.”
Gallopin took the overall leader’s yellow jersey after Nibali’s Astana team did not chase hard to catch a counter-attacking group.
That meant the Kazakh team will not be forced to defend the lead in Monday’s 10th stage, one of the most demanding of the Tour.
“We did not lose the jersey, we just surrendered it,” Astana sports director Giuseppe Martinelli told reporters.
“I also wanted us to save energy before tomorrow because it is going to be the toughest stage of the first part of the Tour.”
Gallopin, of the Lotto-Belisol team, now leads Italian Nibali by 1:34 going into Monday’s 161.5-km trek to La Planche des Belles Filles but has little hope of retaining the lead.
“It’s unbelievable. But it won’t be the easiest stage for defending the lead,” said Gallopin.
“Favourites will undergo their first real big test and I only have a one and half minute lead. I’ll do all I can to keep the jersey. I’d love to have it for more than one day.”
Gallopin, whose uncle is a sports director with the Trek team, is the first Frenchman to wear the yellow jersey since Thomas Voeckler in 2011.
Several groups attacked early on, with Martin of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step (OPQS) team and Italian Alessandro De Marchi leading the way.
They were followed by a group of 28 featuring Pierre Rolland – fourth in the Giro this year – and Gallopin, who had been 3:27 behind Nibali at the start.
Martin’s mammoth work helped the duo build a 6:30 lead over the peloton while the Gallopin group could not close the gap, gradually falling back despite the work of Rolland’s Europcar team mates.