Tony Martin knew the final 208km stage of Tour of Belgium would be difficult, and the aggressive race tactics of other teams proved his belief but the German rider held strong to win the overall.
However, thanks to his teammates, he worked his way to a nine rider group in the final kilometers, which had riders who could have threatened his GC lead. Then, wearing the red leader’s jersey, he worked alone at the front of a 16 rider chase group to ensure the gap of a five rider breakaway would not affect his overall standing on Sunday.
Martin finished 7th in the stage, and his overall victory is the 34th for the Belgium based Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team in three disciplines. Carlos Betancur (Acqua & Sapone) won the stage, Kevin Pauwels was 2nd and Sergey Firsanov (RusVelo) was 3rd.
Martin said after the race that he will go to the Critérium du Dauphiné as his next step, in preparation for the Tour de France. “The whole stage was pretty hard, like expected,” Martin said. “The profile, I think it was 16 climbs, really hard climbs from the Ardennes Classics, so we knew it would be a hard stage. But we really had a strong team here. We controlled the race right from the beginning, and then in the final I took the risk to stay in front, so that the gap in front couldn’t get far away. It was really hard, but I have to say thank you to the whole team. The whole week they always protected me. I am really happy for this team that we could win this race here.”
“It was really an important race for me,” Martin said of his win in Belgium. “I didn’t have a win yet. I had some physical problems due to the crash and it takes always a while to get with a new team and get used to everything, but I think we are now in a really good way. It’s really important to give the confidence for the future. I am really happy, the team is happy especially since it’s the home race here. So, this is a special win and a great week for me and the whole team.”
“My next race will be the Critérium du Dauphiné as next step, in preparation for the Tour de France,” concluded Martin.