Dominant in the stage 20 time trial in beating his nearest rival Tom Dumoulin (Giant Shimano) by 1 minute 39 seconds, Tony Martin was in a confident mood after netting his second stage victory in the Tour.
The German rider acknowledged that several key names were missing but said he felt that his ride was still good enough to have beaten them if they were in the race.
“A lot of guys couldn’t start today out of the real contenders, like Wiggins, like Cancellara,” he said, “but to be honest I made a really good race today. The condition is really good. I still have the power after three weeks. It is really hard to say, but I think today it would have been hard for anybody to fight me.”
Martin set the fastest time at each of the intermediate checks, easily surpassing the previous best marks. He said he felt under pressure, but was able to rise to the challenge.
“Everyone expected me to win. But honestly, it’s a bit like that before all the time trials. I’ve learnt how to deal with this kind of pressure,” he said.
“Especially after my stage win in Mulhouse [stage nine – ed.], I wasn’t in the same situation as if all the Tour de France was to be win or lost today.”
The result is the third stage win for the Omega Pharma Quick Step team. It bounced back well from near-disaster on stage one, and through Martin’s two stage wins plus the stage seven success of Matteo Trentin, it was able to more than salvage its Tour.
Martin said that was down to the team pulling together after the initial setback. “We were all really sad when we learned Mark Cavendish couldn’t continue the Tour de France after the first stage,” he said. “In the beginning we were really down, but already in the second stage we continued fighting. We always showed we’re a strong team.
“We wanted to fight for Cav and win stages. We were able to win three stages with a great team spirit. I’m really proud of how we stayed together and kept fighting. Now we all can be really happy and can enjoy one or two glasses of champagne tonight. We will celebrate and then look to Paris tomorrow with big motivation.”
Looking back at his Tour and assessing the high points, Martin said that his stage nine success was in some ways more emotionally rewarding than his three time trial wins in the race.
“I have to say, to win a road race and knowing five kilometres before the finish you would already win, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said.
“You can celebrate with your sport director as I did with Davide Bramati. He supported me the whole stage and really kept my morale high. Those five kilometres were special for me and the team as we shared in the joy.
“So I can’t say which win is more special, but how I felt when I won stage nine is for sure a unique experience I will remember for a long time.”
The team will try to notch up a fourth stage win on Sunday’s race to the Champs Élysées. Mark Renshaw, who finished second there behind Mark Cavendish in 2009, has said that it would be a huge career highlight if he was able to pull off the victory in Paris.