MULHOUSE, France – On a day local Roman Catholics were celebrating the feast of Saint Anthony, two other Tonys had their own reason to celebrate in the Tour de France.
Germany’s Tony Martin took the stage win Sunday, and France’s Tony Gallopin took the yellow jersey during an up-and-down Stage 9 in the eastern Vosges mountains.
Martin, a three-time world champion known more for time-trial dominance, showed that he could climb too. Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, who has been wearing the leader’s yellow jersey, didn’t lay a hard enough chase of Gallopin to keep it.
French media – delighted to see the country’s first yellow jersey holder since Thomas Voeckler wore it in 2011 – reveled in the fact that Gallopin will lead France’s most beloved race on Bastille Day today.
Gallopin, of the Lotto Belisol team, said he’d been plotting a move for the yellow jersey since Stage 5 – when he positioned himself for a challenge because Nibali was unlikely to want to hold it all the way to Paris on July 27, when the race ends.
It’s a lot of pressure to try to carry the leader’s shirt so long, through the Alps and Pyrenees ahead.
But Nibali knows that Gallopin is unlikely to make it up the big climbs ahead, and the Italian didn’t lose any time against his biggest rivals – highest among them, two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador.
Gallopin, by finishing about 5 minutes ahead of Nibali, easily erased his deficit to the Italian and now leads him by 1:34. Portuguese rider Tiago Machado is third overall, 4:08 back. But, like Gallopin, he is not considered a Tour contender.
“It’s with great pride that I will ride on the national holiday in the yellow jersey,” said Gallopin, adding that he feared he may not keep it after an uphill finish at the super-steep Planche des Belles Filles today. “It’s a little bit scary, but I will enjoy the day.”
“It was always a dream of wearing the yellow jersey,” said Gallopin, who finished 2:45 back of Martin.
Contador finished in the main pack along with Nibali, and is 4:08 back in ninth overall.