Mulhouse, France – Tony Martin of Germany took stage-win honours and Tony Gallopin of France swiped the leader's yellow jersey in an up-and-down ninth stage of the Tour de France in the Vosges mountains on Sunday.
Martin, an Omega Pharma Quick-Step rider better known as a time-trial expert, has shown skill in the hills in recent months - notably with a fourth-place finish in the Tour de Suisse last month. He put it on display again in Sunday's 170-kilometer (105.4-mile) trek from Gerardmer to Mulhouse.
Meanwhile, Gallopin took a ride in a bunch that chased Martin and left behind Italy's Vincenzo Nibali and other top favorites to win the three week race. By overcoming his deficit to the Italian in the overall standings, the French rider snatched the yellow jersey.
Here are five things to know about the Tour de France on Sunday:
Don’t mention Menchov...
Martin declined to react to the International Cycling Union's announcement late Saturday that Denis Menchov, a Russian former rider, was stripped of his results in three Tour de France races and given a two-year ban - even though he's already retired - for an anti-doping rule violation.
“Can we maybe speak about the victory today? And not about David Menchov, or Denis Menchov - or whatever...” said Martin, who competed against the Russian in the Tour in 2009, 2010 and 2012 - the three years for which Menchov was stripped of his Tour results.
Tour boss Christian Prudhomme had no immediate comment.
Menchov was second in the 2010 Tour.
But Menchov's last team, Katusha, had a reaction. In a statement posted on its Web site late Saturday, the team twice expressed “serious disappointment.”
Katusha, a Russian team competing at this Tour, said Menchov was fired last year under a team policy stipulating that a doping offense ends a rider's contract. The statement said the team was informed of the case last year and decided “to cease its contractual relationship” with Menchov - in part for the anti-doping proceedings, and partly for his “chronic and persisting knee problems.”
Katusha said it hadn't spoken earlier about the case “in order to preserve his right to privacy until a final decision had been rendered.”
A shout-out to Johan
Johan Bruyneel, the longtime coach of dethroned former Tour winner Lance Armstrong, got some kind words from Gallopin after the French rider captured the yellow jersey on Sunday.
Gallopin, who was with Bruyneel's RadioShack Leopard Trek for a year and competed with it at the 2012 Tour, called Bruyneel “a great figure of cycling,” and said he had “really learned a lot with this team” - notably on race tactics.
At the time, Gallopin's uncle Alain Gallopin was a RadioShack Leopard Trek team sporting director.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has said that Bruyneel “was at the apex of a conspiracy to commit widespread doping” at Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams for many years.
Bruyneel was given a 10-year ban in April. The World Anti-Doping Agency has appealed for a longer ban, arguing that that's too light.
The French connection
Often at the Tour, team solidarity is the No. 1 priority for riders. But sometimes, national pride kicks in too.
Gallopin, a Lotto Belisol rider, said he felt the impact of “French solidarity” during Sunday's stage - even from riders on other teams who were in a breakaway from the pack with him.
The Frenchman expressed pride that he'll be wearing the yellow jersey on Monday, the national Bastille Day holiday in France.
Gallopin said he discussed possibly capturing the yellow jersey with Europcar's Pierre Rolland, during the ride, and felt “a show of support” from riders on two French teams: Cofidis and AG2R La Mondiale.
“I felt a lot of support, and it makes me happy,” said Gallopin.
A proud president’s call
Frenchman Blel Kadri was relaxing on the massage table when he checked his telephone and saw an unexpected text message.
French President Francois Hollande, who is a big sports fan, sent a message to congratulate Kadri for having won Saturday's hilly eighth stage to become the first Frenchman to win a Tour stage this year.
Hollande asked Kadri to call him, and they spoke for a few moments.
“That was Francois Hollande, our president,” a flattered Kadri said on national television. “It's good for us, for cycling, to have a president who likes our sport.”
However, the message did little to boost his chances in Sunday's ninth stage. Kadri started the day in the best climber's polka dot jersey, but had an early mechanical failure and lost his jersey to Martin.
German pride too
Martin became the third German to win a stage at this year's Tour, after sprint specialists Marcel Kittel - who has won three - and Andre Greipel, who won stage 6.
The Omega Pharma Quick-Step rider said his victory might be “an omen” for Germany's match against Argentina in the World Cup final. – Sapa-AP