Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) today made up for the disappointment of missing out on the yellow jersey for three days in a row, by winning the stage into Cambrai after breaking away solo with 3.1kms to go. Martin had been a member of a front group comprising all GC favourites with the exception of Thibaut Pinot following a spectacular stage on the cobblestones in north of France.
Former yellow jersey wearer Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) and Andreas Schillinger (Bora-Argon 18) were non starters today, as 191 riders set off from Seraing. Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Perrig Quémeneur (Europcar) and Frédéric Brun (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) broke away from the start gaining a maximum lead of 9.10 at the 37-km mark.
However, as the cobbled sectors approached, the speed in the peloton went up and the leading quartet were reeled in. Coming into the last hour of racing, the front group contained all of the race favourites and classics specialists. Unluckily, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) had a mechanical in the second last cobbled sector with 23km remaining and the Frenchman was forced to stop twice.
Tony Martin punctured between the last two cobbled sections but was able to make it back into the lead group with the help of his team-mates Julien Vermote and Michal Golas. The German then attacked with 3km to go as everyone else looked ready for a sprint finish.
There was no reaction from Team Sky. Chris Froome was obviously happy to abandon the yellow jersey to the German, so Etixx-Quick Step will be in charge of controlling the peloton over the next few days. Giant-Alpecin led the chase but it was too late. The triple world time trial champion managed to stay away and cross the line three seconds ahead of his compatriot John Degenkolb, and also managed to take the yellow jersey.