World Time Trial champion Tony Martin of Omega Pharma-Lotto showed his best form in Stage 11 of the 2013 Tour de France, winning the stage by 12 seconds over race leader Chris Froome of Sky Procycling.
The 28-year-old German has won the World Time Trial Championship five times. Ordinarily no one would be surprised to see him take just 36:29 to complete the 33-km course.
Martin’s Stage 11 effort was extraordinary not just for his speed, but because he was riding with painful injuries suffered in Stage One. Martin pushed so hard he opened wounds on his legs; blood could be seen seeping through his skinsuit.
Martin, 118th in General Classification, started at 12:30 p.m. and had to sit and watch for four-and-a-half hours while rider after rider attempted to beat Martin’s time. No one came within a minute of his time until the day’s last rider, Sky’s Chris Froome, set out.
Froome was one second faster at the first time check and two ahead at the second. Sky’s team leader lost 14 seconds in the final ten Ks, partially due to a strong headwind, and finished second, well ahead of all of his GC competition.
Froome didn’t feel any regret to have come so close, only to slow near the end to finish second.
“I am really happy with my result,” he told Eurosport.com.” Tony did a fantastic ride there to win this stage; he really deserved that. As the World Champion, the time trial is really his specialty. I ‘m really happy with second place and having extended my advantage on the big GC rivals.”
Froome explained what happened in the final kilometers: “There was a really strong headwind there the last couple of Ks—I was really struggling to turn the legs. I was just trying to get to the finish, the last couple Ks.”
Froome extended his lead over second-placed Alejandro Valverde by two minutes, to 3:25.
“I think that gives me a good buffer going into the next few days,” Froome said of his lead, “but I think I am going to need every second I can get the may these guys are riding.”
Alberto Contador finished fifteenth, moving up from sixth to fourth in GC, but lost 2:03 to Froome. Belkin’s Bauke Mollema held onto third, but lost 1:53. Omega’s Michal Kwiatkowski moved up to seventh overall and retook the Best Young Rider jersey from Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, who dropped to eighth.
Peter Sagan finished a respectable 17th, again showing that he good at anything involving a bicycle.
Much had been made of 2012’s parcours perfectly suiting eventual winner Bradley Wiggins, with three time trials, while 2013’s route with only two TTs and more climbing favored Froome. That may be, but the Stage 11 time trial may prove to be the day that Froome won the Tour.
Stage 12: Sprinters’ Heaven
Froome’s lead won’t be tested for the next few days; Stages 12 and 13 are almost guaranteed to end with bunch sprints.
Stage 12, 218 km from Fougères to Tours, has nary a categorized climb and a flat final five kilometers, with no sharp bends to slow the leadout trains. This stage will test the teams as well as the sprinters; strategy, organization and timing will make the difference.