Tour de France: Tony Martin takes lead with solo win on stage four
Chris Froome second overall after safely negotiating cobbles
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 08/07/15 6:03am
Tony Martin claimed the overall lead of the Tour de France from Chris Froome by winning stage four solo as all of the main contenders for the yellow jersey survived the day’s feared cobble roads unscathed.
Despite being on a team-mate’s bike following an earlier puncture, Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) attacked out of an elite lead group of 35 riders with 3.3km remaining and hung on to win by three seconds from runner-up John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and third-placed Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Martin started the day one second down in second place overall, but having picked up 10 bonus seconds for his win and with Froome (Team Sky) finishing 17th in the group three seconds back, the German now climbs to the top of the general classification and opens up a lead of 12 seconds.
Froome falls one place to second, 13 seconds ahead of third-placed Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), but the day was nevertheless an overwhelming success for the Briton after he comfortably overcame arguably the most dangerous stage of this year’s race.
His three closest pre-race rivals for overall victory all also finished in the main group, with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) crossing the line in 15th, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) in 19th and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 23rd.
It means Froome remains 36 seconds ahead of Contador in the general classification, with Nibali still 1min 38sec back and Quintana 1min 56sec down.
While Froome, Contador and Quintana will be delighted with the day's outcome, Nibali was left frustrated. Easily the best of the four on cobbles, he attacked three times on the 13.3km of pavé but each time was shut down by his rivals' teams and consequently failed to make the time gains he had been hoping for.
Martin, meanwhile, took the yellow jersey for the first time in his career, having narrowly missed out on the race lead on each of the previous three stages, and picked up his fifth Tour stage win.
He said: "Honestly, after having a flat tyre and changing bike with the wrong position, I was just thinking to survive the stage and was looking forward to the next stages.
"Suddenly, 5km to the finish, we were all together and everyone was looking at each other and nobody really wanted to pull, so I just decided to give me a chance and go full gas ahead and somehow I found some power and I made it."
Stage four’s 223.5km route contained seven sectors of cobbles, with the first coming in the middle of the day and the remaining six all arriving in the final 50km.
With the peloton having already split into pieces on sector two, Nibali made accelerations on the third, fifth and seventh sectors, but each time he was unable to drop his rivals as Froome in particular put up a magnificent resistance, aided by the outstanding Geraint Thomas
Contador, who was shepherded by Peter Sagan, also excelled, while Quintana defied his light frame to hang on desperately – but successfully – at the back of the lead group.
Once off the final sector, Froome put in an attack of his own with 9km to go in a bid to distance the tiring Contador, but he was reeled back in and the path was subsequently cleared for Martin to surge clear to a perfectly timed victory.
The Tour continues on Wednesday with a 189.5km flat stage from Arras to Amiens. Find out more about it here.
Stage four result
1 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step, 5:28:58
2 John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano, +3secs
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo, same time
4 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, st
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka, st
6 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, st
7 Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Katusha, st
8 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal, st
9 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step, st
10 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar, st
15 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, st
17 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st
19 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
23 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, st
1 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step, 12:40:26
2 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +12secs
3 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, +25
4 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal, +38
5 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo, +39
6 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, +40
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step, +46
8 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, +48
9 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +1:15
10 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step, +1:16
13 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +1:50
17 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +2:08