While Vincenzo's first victory in the Tour de France was already almost certain, France claimed back some of its past glory by placing two men on the race podium for the first time in 30 years after Saturday's final time trial in Perigueux, won by Tony Martin. The German's success was as predictable as Nibali's triumph yet the medal spots were up for grabs and Jean-Christophe Peraud used his experience and «rouleur» skills to clinch a runner-up spot while Thibaut Pinot emerged as the rising star of the sport by salvaging a third place overall, at 24. He was not born the last time two local riders had been in the top three in 1984 when Laurent Fignon beat Bernard Hinault to claim his second Tour de France.
Danny Pate sets the tone
Lying some six hours behind Nibali overall after 18 stages, Ji Cheng was the first in action. But the First Chinese to take part in the Tour de France did not have the chance to set a reference time as he was overtaken 13 km from the line by Italy's Davide Cimolai, who started two minutes behind him.Â The Italian was in turn erased from the tables by French champion Arnaud Demare, then by Adrien Petit, who in turn left his temporary top spot to Vladimir Isaychev. The first real pace setter was Danny Pate, who completed the course at an average speed of 46.7 kph.
Barta a gear higher
Czech Jan Barta (TNE), elected the most aggressive rider in stage 3 in London, took over by becoming the first rider under 1:09 on 1:08.08. It was again a very temporary lead as Tony Martin was soon in action and improved the Czech's mark at each intermediate timing to be faster on the line by 1:47. The German average speed of 48.8 kph remained remote from the speed of over 50 kph reached by Miguel Indurain on the same course in 1994 over 64 kph. Along the way, the Omega Pharma Quick Step riding machine, already winner of a remarkable stage in Mulhouse, overtook three riders, Molard, Oss and Purito Rodriguez.
All the following starters did not have many illusions but some fared pretty well like Dutch champion Tom Dumoulin, who set the second fastest time on 1:08.1, 1:39 slower than the German time trial supremo. But the battle for stage honours were dimmed when the top five riders started in turn. While Tejay Van Garderen gradually took the upper hand over Romain Bardet, the first real upset was the disappointing performance of Alejandro Valverde, who was only 41st after 19 kilometres. Bauke Mollema was also struggling, losing his spot as the top Dutchman in the GC to team-mate Laurens Ten Dam.
Besides Tony Martin, the strong man on the day was Jean-Christophe Peraud, who despite a puncture,rode a solid time trial to finish 7th and overtake Thibaut Pinot for second place in the GC before the final stage to the Champs-Elysees. Pinot, not known as a specialist before this stage, proved he had made considerable progress in the time effort to finish 12th and salvage a place on the podium.While Valverde retained his 4th place,American Tejay Van Garderen beat Frenchman Romain Bardet for the top 5 by just two seconds. The frustration must be all the more bitter for Bardet as he, like Peraud, suffered a flat tyre in the final kilometres of his ride.
Czech Loepold Koenig, an unheralded 7th overall and veteran Spaniard Haimar Zubeldia, who made it in the top 10 of the Tour for the fifth time, are the other leading roles in this finishing Tour.