Tony Martin has best provisional Tour time trial

SAMUEL PETREQUIN

BESANCON, France (AP) — World champion Tony Martin of Germany blew a tire but still had the best provisional time in the first long time trial of this Tour de France.

The victory was a welcome change for Martin. A tire puncture in the opening prologue dashed his hope of claiming the yellow jersey. He broke his hand during the first stage.

On Monday, however, he completed the mostly flat 25.8-mile ninth stage between Arc-et-Senans and Besancon in 53 minutes, 40 seconds on a sunny, dry day in eastern France. He averaged 28.8 mph, beating fellow German Jens Voigt, who was second, by 28 seconds.

"I'm in good shape, but I again lost time with a flat tire after four or five kilometers," Martin said.

Martin said he lost his rhythm, but "at the end it wasn't too bad."

"If I hadn't gotten a flat, I could have fought with the others. But with this, I'd be surprised" to end the stage by posting the best time, Martin said.

Riders were competing in the time trial in the reverse order of the overall standings. Leader Bradley Wiggins of Britain will be the last of the 178 riders still in the race to set off, three minutes after defending Tour champion Cadel Evans.

Wiggins leads Evans by 10 seconds overall and is expected to gain more time on his Australian rival.

The last time Evans and Wiggins competed in the same time trial was at the Criterium du Dauphine last month. Wiggins finished 1:43 faster than Evans over the 33.2 miles.

Martin excels in the race against the clock and won the gold medal in the time trial at the world championships last year. On this Tour, he broke a bone in his left hand July 1 but stayed in the race, looking toward a possible time-trial victory.

Martin is aiming to win the Olympic time trial on Aug. 1. He will decide later Monday whether he stays in the Tour or withdraws to concentrate on the London Games, his Omega Pharma Quick Step team said.