For the second straight day through the hills/mountains of the Tour de France, a breakaway rider was able to hold on for the stage win. Germany's Tony Martin crossed the line first in Mulhouse to win Stage 9 while the Yellow Jersey changed hands for the first time in a week.
A top time trialist, Martin went out front just 18 kilometers in and kept driving a hard pace, one that the chasing group nor the peloton could keep up with and over the final climb of the day, Martin accelerated, leaving his one companion, Alessandro De Marchi, behind. He rode down the wet streets on the descent -- one of his specialties -- and then basically ran his own time trial on the flat finish to hit the line first by 2:45 over Fabian Cancellara and the chase pack.
Martin is the third German rider to win a stage in this Tour, joining Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel. They'll be hoping it's one of two big international sporting wins for Germany on Sunday.
With his leading role up the climbs, Martin also took over the lead for the King of the Mountains race and will sport the polka dot jersey, though that likely won't remain on his shoulders for long.
But what was going on behind was of more consequence to the overall Tour. While Martin and De Marchi were out front alone, a group of 25 riders were chasing them ahead of the main peloton where the Yellow Jersey of Vincenzo Nibali and the rest of the top 10 were riding. That allowed the highest-placed rider in the chase group, France's Tony Gallopin, to move atop the table and grab the Yellow Jersey.
Gallopin led the chase group on the descent and the flat run into Mulhouse to try and get every second he could to step into the Tour lead. His group reached the finish line five minutes ahead of the peloton and Nibali, Alberto Contador, Richie Porte and company.
It's going to be quite a treat for the fans in France to see one of their own in the Maillot Jaune on Bastille Day on Monday, let alone Gallopin.
The peloton's tactics were interesting to watch on Sunday. Led by Team Astana -- the team of Vincenzon Nibali -- the peloton never really made an attempt to bring the chase group or the leaders back into their sights.Astana was more than content to give up the Yellow Jersey for now and let another team do the work of protecting it, saving up some energy to try and take it back before Paris, especially with another day of mountains to come on Monday.
When the day was done, the top 10 had its first big shakeup since the second stage back in Britain. Here is the new top of the race (and the top Americans).
1. Tony Gallopin (FRA)
2. Vincenzo Nibal (ITA) +1:34
3. Tiago Machado (POR) +2:40
4. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) +3:18
5. Richie Porte (AUS) +3:32
6. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) +4:00
7. Alejando Valverde (ESPN) +4:01
8. Pierre Rolland (FRA) +4:07
9. Alberto Contador (ESP) +4:08
10. Romain Bardet (FRA) +4:13
16. Tejay van Garderen (USA) +5:08
19. Andrew Talansky (USA) +5:56
24. Chris Horner (USA) +7:46
Photo of the day
This is what it looks like when you reach the top of a climb as the first rider in the Tour de France with the addition of one common theme this year; some rain.
Officially the first mountain stage, Stage 10 on Bastille Day will be a doozy. Starting where they finished on Sunday in Mulhouse, the beginning of the ride should be comfortable, but not for long.
The 161.5 kilometer stage will feature four Category 1 climbs including one up to the finish line in La Planche Des Belles Filles, in addition to two Category 2 climbs and one Category 3. In other words, it won't be for the faint of heart among the riders.
Tony Gallopin took over the Yellow Jersey on Sunday, the question is if he'll be able to keep it through Monday and into the rest day because the stage is ripe for attacks, especially on the final climb of the day. It could very well be the toughest and most demanding stage of the entire Tour.