Power of the Panzerwagen: Tony Martin Dominates Tour de France Stage 20 Time Trial

Cycling: 101th Tour de France / Stage 20

The translation of German Tony Martin’s nickname, “Panzerwagen,” results in the English word, “tank.” Martin has been just that during his career time trial performances. He backed up his nickname in today’s Tour de France Stage 20 time trial, winning in a time of 1 hour, 6 minutes and 21 seconds. The reigning Time Trial World Champion put down an unmatched effort on the penultimate stage of the 2014 Tour, topping his closest competitor by a staggering 1 minute, 39 seconds.

“I’m a little bit surprised about the huge gap from first place to second,” said Martin. “But I’m really happy about today’s race. I felt really good; comfortable from the start.”

Dubbed, “the race of truth,” Saturday’s 54km time trial might not have had the race implications the organizers were originally hoping for, but there was still plenty of action. While Martin was in a league of his own, shattering the field, there was some shuffling in the overall podium and top-5 positions in this year’s Tour de France. While no one would gain any time back on yellow jersey holder, Vincenzo Nibali, American Tejay van Garderen did move up from sixth to fifth in the GC standings after an impressive sixth place finish on the day. In a dramatic swap on the podium, Frenchman Jean-Christophe Péraud jumped into second position in the overall standings with his seventh place finish on Saturday, despite a late bike change during the time trial.

Race leader Vincenzo Nibali showed once more why he deserves the title of 2014 Tour de France Champion, backing up three weeks of strong performances to finish fourth in the time trial, only 1 minute 58 seconds slower than Martin. While he held a virtually insurmountable seven-plus minute lead in the GC standings, all eyes were on the rest of the pack to see if they could gain even a few seconds back on Nibali. Not only did “The Shark” prevent those seconds from being regained, with his fourth place finish, he padded his yellow jersey lead, going into Sunday’s final stage with a 7 minute, 52 second advantage over Péraud and the rest of the field.

While all the attention will be on Astana Pro Team’s Italian National Champion Nibali tomorrow as he rides into Paris with the yellow jersey, Omega Pharma – Quick-Step’s time trial specialist Tony Martin grabbed one last shining moment for his team on Saturday. This was the German’s second stage win of this year’s Tour de France.

“I was a little bit worried about how the condition would be after three weeks in the Tour de France,” Martin added. “But I could recover a little bit yesterday. I was mentally strong in today’s race. Then I did what I always do in a TT; just give it full gas right from the start. I already showed in the first week that I’m able to go fast up front. The weather was nice, the fans were there and gave me a lot of motivation.”

One Step Closer: Nibali Increases Tour de France GC Lead With Stage 18 Win

July 24, 2014

It’s looking inevitable at this point that 2014 will see Italian Vincenzo Nibali take the Tour de France crown. Going into Thursday’s 145.5km Stage 18 in the Pyrénées, “The Shark” had already compiled a multi-minute lead. Proving once again that he is the best climber in the field, he rode to yet another solo stage victory in the mountains to further increase his lead in the General Classification standings. Nibali now leads the two Frenchmen in second and third place by over seven minutes going into the final weekend of this year’s Tour.

Stage 18 marked the final set of serious climbs in this year’s Tour. With a relatively flat Stage 19, an individual time trial on Saturday and the more celebratory (and flat) Stage 21 leading into Paris, only serious disaster can stop Nibali from winning his first career Tour de France at this point.

During Thursday’s final climb towards the Hautacam ski area in the Pyrénées, Nibali countered a late attack by American Chris Horner. While the Italian sat on Horner’s wheel for a few minutes, that didn’t last long as Nibali made his patented move and couldn’t be matched all the way to the finish. He only had to pass Team Sky’s Mikel Nieve who had survived an early break away, which he did with ease, climbing to his fourth stage victory of this year’s race.

“Today wasn’t for the rankings,” Nibali said. “I just wanted another stage win. The team has worked so hard for me throughout these three weeks. To win a stage in the Pyrénées is very important. It’s for the whole team.”

Nibali’s teammates were thankful for the win and had some strong words of support for the Italian following today’s stage:

“Vincenzo is a real champion,” said teammate Michele Scarponi. “He has done an extraordinary Tour. He won the last mountain stage with a huge demonstration of strength. We try to put him in the best place to win, and let’s say mission accomplished.”

Hat Trick: Nibali Claims Another Stage Victory On First Day In the Alps

July 18, 2014

There seems to be nothing “The Shark,” Vincenzo Nibali can’t do during this year’s Tour de France. Many have tried to attack the Italian National Champion over the first thirteen days of The Tour, but in the end, the holder of the maillot jaune not only answers every time, but counters with an attack of his own. This streak held true during Friday’s long 197.5km Stage 13 in the brutal Alps mountain range in Eastern France.

Nibali stuck with the peloton for the majority of the stage until about 7 km left to go. He seemed to jump from breakaway group to breakaway group until he found himself caught up with the two stage leaders. After surveying the situation for a few kilometers, in true Nibali form, he made his move with 3km to go, which no one could match.

The race leader finished with a ten second advantage over the second and third place riders on the day; Rafal Majka of Tinkoff-Saxo and Leopold Konig of Team Netapp-Endura.

Nibali began the day with a two minute, 23 second lead in the overall standings over Team Sky’s Richie Port. That would change following Nibali’s Stage 13 victory, as Porte could not match the Italian’s climbing in the Alps. Porte finished over eight minutes behind Nibali, dropping him out of the top 15 in the GC classification. BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen placed sixth on the day, rocketing him up the GC standings into fifth position, five minutes and 19 seconds behind Nibali.

“It’s a special day today. I’m very happy,” Nibali said. “I just wanted to gain some time, as much time as I could. I knew [Alejandro] Valverde and [Richie] Porte were close to me. In the end there was only Valverde and me. In the end I just felt stronger than Valverde. It was a hot day. It felt like I was in Palermo or Messina, my hometown.”

With his overall lead in the Tour de France extending to three minutes, 37 seconds, Nibali looks to be in the driver’s seat for this year’s race. This was the Italian’s third stage victory in this year’s Tour. Not only did it secure his yellow jersey for yet another day, his Stage 13 victory also earned him the title of King of the Mountains and leader of the polka dot jersey standings.

Again, what can’t this man do?

Tour de France – Stage 13 Results

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Astana) 5hrs 12mins 29secs
2. Rafal Majka (Pol/Tinkoff – Saxo) +10secs
3. Leopold Koenig (Cze/NetApp Endura) +11secs
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +50secs
5. Thibaut Pinot (Fra/FDJ) +53secs
6. Tejay van Garderen (US/BMC Racing) +1min 23secs
7. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R) Same time
8. Laurens ten Dam (Ned/Belkin) +1min 36secs
9. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra/AG2R) +2mins 09secs
10. Fraenk Schleck (Lux/Trek) Same time

Tour de France – GC Standings After Stage 13

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Astana) 56hrs 44mins 03secs
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +3mins 37secs
3. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R) +4mins 24secs
4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra/FDJ) +4mins 40secs
5. Tejay van Garderen (US/BMC Racing) +5mins 19secs
6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra/AG2R) +6mins 06secs
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned/Belkin) +6mins 17secs
8. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel/Lotto-Belisol) +6mins 27secs
9. Rui Costa (Por/Lampre) +8mins 35secs
10. Leopold Koenig (Cze/NetApp Endura) +8mins 36secs

Back in Yellow: Vincenzo Nibali Wins Tour de France Stage 10; Regains Maillot Jaune

July 14, 2014

That didn’t last long. Just a day after he relinquished the coveted race leader’s yellow jersey to Frenchman Tony Gallopin of Lotto-Belisol, Astana Pro Team’s Vincenzo Nibali got it right back after winning a dramatic and brutal Stage 10 of the 2014 Tour de France. The Italian National Champion overtook Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez on the final climb up La Planche des Belles Filles which consists of an 18% grade heart-breaker. Nibali made up the one and a half minute deficit in the GC standings and put an additional 2 minutes, 23 seconds on the next contender at the end of the day.

The 161.5km Stage 10 saw a plethora of drama with bad weather and additional crashes, including yellow jersey contender Alberto Contador. With Contador abandoning the Tour, Nibali now has one less serious threat to his yellow jersey. Nibali cited this stage the hardest he’d ever done in a Grand Tour.

“It’s been a very demanding stage with the fog and the rain after ten days of hard racing,” Nibali said. “This was the hardest stage I’ve ever done in a Grand Tour with seven climbs and so many crashes.”

While Stage 9 winner and polka dot jersey holder Tony Martin of Omega Pharma – Quick-Step did the majority of the work initially in the main field before the big climbs began, it was a battle between Joaquium Rodriquez and Thomas Voeckler that ignited the action on the day. Rodriquez eventually prevailed in the King of the Mountains classification and will wear the polka dot jersey on Wednesday’s Stage 11.

After Rodriguez had pushed all day up the climbs in search of King of the Mountain points, he was passed with just 1.2km remaining by eventual stage winner Nibali. The Italian finished 4:45 ahead of Gallopin, which was more than enough to retake the yellow jersey. Nibali had previously worn the maillot jaune following his Stage 2 victory all the way to Stage 9. The Astana Pro Team will now lead the Tour for yet another string after what looked to be a defining stage win in this year’s Tour de France.

“This is a wonderful victory, thanks to a great team work, especially by Michele Scarponi in the finale,” Nibali added. “As I crossed the line, I’ve dedicated it to my baby girl. I speak with my wife every day on the phone and she told me that Emma becomes silent and opens her eyes wide when she hears my voice on TV.”

Little Emma might have many more silent moments in front of the television because her daddy looks to be the man to beat for the 2014 Tour de France title.

Stage 10 Results

1. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA)
2. Richie Porte (AUS) +2:23
3. Alejando Valverde (ESP) +2:47
4. Romain Bardet (FRA) +3:01
5. Tony Gallopin +3:13
6. Thibaut Pinot +3:47
7. Tejay van Garderen (USA) +3:56
8. Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA) +3:57
9. Rui Costa (POR) +3:58
10. Bauke Mollema (NED) +4:08

Tony Martin Breaks Away For Tour de France Stage 9 Victory; Gains Polka Dot Jersey

July 13, 2014

German Tony Martin is no stranger to riding alone. The 29-year-old has won the Individual Time Trial World Championship three times in his young career and exhibits unprecedented speed out on the road. Although it might not have necessarily been in Omega Pharma – Quick-Step’s original plans to send Martin for a stage win, with leader Mark Cavendish out for the Tour, it’s been a mixed bag for the Belgian squad, targeting a variety of riders for the potential stage victories. Today was Martin’s turn and he capitalized in a big way. Not only did the time trial specialist dominate the peloton, winning Stage 9 by a 2 minute 45 second margin, he secured the Polka Dot Jersey as well after earning valuable King of the Mountains points.

Martin had previously won individual time trial stages in the Tour de France, including the ITT during the 20th stage of the 2011 Tour and last year’s Stage 11 ITT, but this was his first career road stage victory in the biggest race in the world.

“The difference between winning a time trial and a normal stage like today is that I had more time to enjoy it today,” Martin stated. “With three minutes lead, I knew I had the race in my hand. It was an incredible feeling.”

Just 18th km into the 170km stage Martin made a break during a climb in the Vosges and never looked back. Only Cannondale’s Alessandro De Marchi was able to sustain Martin’s pace initially, but that didn’t last long as Martin quickly made another break with 59 kilometers left at the foot of the first-category climb of the Col de Markstein. Martin would lead the rest of the stage solo to the finish in Mulhouse. This was his Omega Pharma – Quick-Step’s second stage victory in a period of just three days.

The German stage winner is often described as having a huge engine in him. Not only did he prove that today with his intense speeds throughout the stage, he was able to claim the Polka Dot Jersey as the Tour’s King of the Mountains, proving speed is not his only weapon. His solo climbing through the Vosges was impressive, separating him from the pack and putting him in the points lead for the Tour’s best climber.

Martin’s teammate and white jersey holder Michal Kwiatkowski had nothing but praise for the stage winner:

“I’m very happy, especially for Tony,” Kwiatkowski said. “He helped me a lot yesterday. He motivated me when I had a hard time. He spent a lot of energy at my service and yet, he was able to do what he did today. It’s amazing. Only Tony Martin can do such things.”

One final award for Martin following Sunday’s Stage 9: the day’s most combative rider.

In other Tour news, yellow jersey holder, Vincenzo Nibali of Astana Pro Team relinquished his crown (for the moment) as another Tony, France’s Tony Gallopin overtook the Italian for the coveted Maillot Jaune a day before his country’s national holiday; Bastille Day.

Nibali’s team admitted this was a bit of a tactical move, citing their desire to let go of the race leader’s jersey and regain it later in the race. The amount of energy being put out as the leaders of the Tour was becoming too much for the team, having led the pace since Stage Two when Nibali took over yellow. Nibali now sits in second position in the General Classification standings with a 1 minute 34 second deficit; an amount he can most likely make up soon as the riders enter a heavy climbing stage tomorrow.

Stage 9 Results

1. Tony Martin (Ger/Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) 4hrs 09mins 34secs
2. Fabian Cancellara (Swi/Trek) +2mins 45secs
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing)
4. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Giant-Shimano)
5. Matteo Montaguti (Ita/AG2R)
6. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa/Movistar)
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/Belkin)
8. Mickael Cherel (Fra/AG2R)
9. Brice Feillu (Fra/Bretagne-Seche)
10. Tiago Machado (Por/NetApp Endura)

Omega Pharma – Quick-Step’s Matteo Trentin Steals Tour de France Stage 7 Victory

July 11, 2014

In what has been a difficult Tour de France campaign thus far for Omega Pharma – Quick-Step after losing their leader, Mark Cavendish due to a crash, Matteo Trentin finally gave his team something to smile about. The Italian emerged from a bunch sprint at the end of the 234.5km Stage 7 from Épernay to Nancy in France to steal a victory from the green jersey holder, Peter Sagan of Cannondale, in a photo finish. Trentin edged the Slovakian sensation by literally millimeters to record his second career Tour de France stage victory.

“It’s been tight,” Trentin said of Stage 7’s racing. “I’ve won by just a few centimeters. It was very nervous with this complicated finale and those crashes but I didn’t realize really because everything was happening behind me.”

Stage 7 was the second longest stage in this year’s Tour and saw a peloton riddled with crashes. Although the roads were dry after a treacherous few days filled with rain, general classification riders like BMC Racing’s Tejay Van Garderen and Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky found themselves scraping the gravel out of their wounds sustained from crashing throughout the stage.

With riders like Mark Renshaw, Tony Martin and youngster Michał Kwiatkowski always somewhere near the front of the pack, Omega Pharma – Quick-Step has had it’s fair share of close calls with regards to stage wins, but Trentin delivered the team’s first stage victory of their 2014 campaign, edging Sagan, who was touted as one of the favorites to claim the Stage 7 win. Trentin and the rest of the lead pack recorded a time of five hours, 18 minutes and 39 seconds to complete the 234.5km stage.

“Since Cavendish crashed, we try all we can to go for a stage victory,” Trentin added. “With Renshaw, Kwiatkowski and I’m the one who makes it. But it’s not my victory, it’s the team’s victory.”

Trentin’s countryman, Vincenzo Nibali, of Astana Pro Team, avoided the mayhem on the road and finished 16th in Nancy to remain in the race leader’s yellow jersey, which he’s had since his stage 2 victory in the United Kingdom.

Tomorrow’s Stage 8 features 161 km of relatively flat riding until the last 30km where the riders will face three climbs leading up to the finish.

Vincenzo Nibali Claims Tour de France Stage 2 Victory; Takes Over Yellow Jersey

July 06, 2014

The 201km Stage Two of the 2014 Tour de France was billed as one of the more taxing courses the riders would see in their first few days through the towns of Yorkshire in England on their way south to London. The hilly ride, including nine extremely difficult climbs, from York to Sheffield saw millions of fans, for the second day in a row, lining the course hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite rider. While the United Kingdom was bias towards defending champion, Chris Froome, of Team Sky, it was Italy’s National Champion, Vincenzo Nibali who attacked just before the finish to claim his first ever Tour de France stage victory.

Just a day after the devastating crash involving Oakley’s Mark Cavendish and Team Orica GreenEDGE’s Simon Gerrans at the finish line of Stage 1 in Yorkshire, another exciting finale awaited the British fans in Sheffield. Astana’s Nibali, dubbed “The Shark,” appropriately attacked with precision in the final meters of the race to claim the stage victory. He broke away from a main group, including defending champion Froome and heavy contender Alberto Contador and never looked back. Two seconds later, Greg van Avermaet finished second and best young rider hopeful, Michal Kwiatkowski of Omega Pharma Quick Step took third.

Already a proven champion as the 2013 Giro d’ Italia winner, Nibali has his eyes on the maillot jaune at this year’s Tour de France. He earned just that, at least for now, becoming the general classification leader by two seconds over sprinting sensation, Peter Sagan, going into Monday’s Stage 3.

“This is a wonderful victory,” Nibali stated after his win. “I found the right time to escape. I really felt as though I was all out and I didn’t think I was going to be able to keep up that pace towards the end, but in the end I just found that little bit extra."

It’s been a thrilling two days in England to begin the 2014 Tour de France. Already with record breaking attendance, the British fans are sure to continue to turn out in droves for tomorrow’s British final, ending in London, before the riders head to France to finish the final 18 stages. Nibali will look to make the transfer while holding on to his coveted yellow jersey.

Stage Two Results

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, 5:08:36
2 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, +2secs
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, st
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, st
5 Tony Gallopin (Ita) Lotto Belisol, st
6 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge, st
7 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp, st
8 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin, st
9 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, st
10 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st

General classification

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, 9:52:43
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, +2secs
3 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, st
4 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge, st
5 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st
6 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin, st
7 Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol, st
8 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
9 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, st
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, st