MULHOUSE, France (VN) — Everyone saw what was going on Sunday.
Tony Martin’s legs pushed and pulled and he snapped the elastic of the breakaway, then wrenched the last barnacle away from his rear wheel. He was now staring at 59 kilometers all alone.
No one saw what was going on Saturday.
Before this moment of assumed brilliance, Tony Martin told his team that he felt good. And asked, very politely, if he could attack.
“Okay,” director Brian Holm said. “Here we go. Give it a try.”
Martin did more than try, cutting through the warm French afternoon on his lonesome, out of the Vosges and down into Mulhouse. There was only supposed to be one time trial at this Tour, but Martin gave it another on Sunday. There was a small peloton of riders who knew what was coming, but no one could stop it. Martin knew he couldn’t win from the break, so he broke a collective will instead.
“I knew there would be the time, the point, where they give up. We had 1:30, 1:40. At one moment the gap grew to three minutes. Then I knew that we broke the morale, and I knew if I just go alone and make a good TT performance I can make it today,” he said.
For those last 60 kilometers, Martin was a fluid mold of human and vessel, his pedigree on full display as his pursuers quarreled behind. The larceny of genius is its painting of a sublime outcome as a foregone conclusion.
“That was probably the strongest individual performance that I ever saw,” said Holm. Patrick Lefevere, Omega’s CEO, called the performance Merckxian. For what it’s worth, Martin also donned the polka-dot jersey for his effort.
“I think there are not so many guys in cycling at the moment who can do it like this. But I have to do it this way — I’m not a guy for the big attacks and playing games,” Martin said. “When I have the gap once I know that I can make the good race and go really fast. Not just a one-hour TT. Three, four hours on the mountain stage. Today everything worked perfectly.”
Lefevere said Omega would come out swinging, regardless of the loss of Omega’s sprint king on the Tour’s first day. And Lefevere was as good as his word. Since Mark Cavendish crashed out of the Tour de France on its opening day, the Belgian classics-built team has raced the Tour like a string of one-day races, and to wild success.
The team has won two stages now, with Martin and Matteo Trentin, and has Michal Kwiatkowski placed sixth on general classification, four minutes out.
“It would be quite difficult for us to get through the Tour de France and not win a race. I expected us to win a stage here … we’re always winning a race basically every week, don’t we?” Holm said. It’s Omega’s 47th victory of the year.
“It’s always difficult to win the first one. Then everybody [has] so sky high morale,” Holm said. “But the first one, for every team, it’s the first one … and then you start winning, you get confident.”
Martin said much of the same.
“The victory for Matteo Trentin took off a little pressure of the team. But I think we showed before the victory we never lost morale. … The morale was never down. Maybe just the evening when we knew that Cav was out. But afterwards we decided to make a really aggressive race here.”
The Tour fights on, this time with an uphill finish on the feared La Planche des Belles Filles Monday afternoon.