Tony Martin soloed to victory on stage two of the Tour of the Basque Country, attacking from the day’s breakaway to take a comprehensive victory.
The world time trial champion benefitted from the presence of team-mate Jan Bakelants in the breakaway to conserve his energy in the earlier parts of the stage.
And the German took full advantage of Bakelants’ efforts to attack the break with perfect timing, time trialing to a hugely impressive solo win.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) remains the overall leader meanwhile after fending off some later attacks by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to stay clear overall.
A strong break went clear earlier in the day, with Omega Pharma-Quickstep team-mates Martin and Bakelants part of the seven-man group.
Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing), Hubert Dupont (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Maxime Monfort (Lotto-Belisol) and Davide Malacarne (Team Europcar) also went up the road, earning 2’30” on the bunch after 30km.
Omar Fraile (Caja Rural) attempted to bridge to the leading group but was swallowed up by the bunch, while another man who is no stranger to a successful breakaway, Lieuwe Westra (Astana) abandoned the race.
Despite – or perhaps because of – the number of strong break-away riders in the advantage, the gap to the Tinkoff Saxo-led bunch stayed in check for much of the first part of the race.
At 50 kilometres the group still had just 2’40” on the bunch as they descended the Usategieta – the second category two climb of the day – and it did not really grow much bigger than that as the roads levelled out.
Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing) and Ben King (Garmin-Sharp) were involved in a crash with 42km to go, but at the front of the bunch Tinkoff-Saxo remained in control.
Orica-GreenEDGE and Team Sky were among the teams to lend a hand as they hit the rolling countryside of Zugarramurdi with the gap still hovering above two minutes.
It had the effect of cutting the deficit by more than half, but with 18 kilometres to go Martin hit the front of the bunch to inject a new burst of life into the break.
Izaguirre and Bakelants had enough to stay with him, but the remainder of the original escape were found out as the gap returned to more than a minute.
Izaguirre’s presence in the leading group stopped Movistar from taking up the chase, but with 11.5km to go Martin burst off the front after taking a time check from the motorbike.
With a small gap, the world time trial champion was in his element, descending at a great speed and time-trialling at more than 50km/h.
Martin conserved his energy as he hit the small, final climb of the day with seven kilometres remaining and sensing the chance for stage victory was over, the attention in the bunch turned instead to GC position.
Valverde and Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) traded blows at the front, the pace causing a split in the bunch and cutting a few seconds from Martin’s lead.
With five kilometres remaining the German still held 50 seconds on the bunch, with Bakelants the one remaining rider in between Martin and the peloton.
It had fallen into the final two kilometres, but with Martin haunched forward over his handlebars, sat on his frame his pace was clearly too much for the bunch behind.
He had enough time to sit up, zip up his jersey and celebrate his first stage victory of the season.
Ben Swift (Team Sky) led the sprint out for second, with Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) in hot pursuit.
The Yorkshire sprinter just about held on however, crossing 30 seconds behind Martin to deny the Belgian super team a one-two.
Tour of the Basque Country 2014: stage two – result
1) Tony Martin (GER) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 3.46.17hrs
2) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky +30”
3) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – ST
4) Damiano Cunego (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
5) Paul Martens (GER) – Belkin
6) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar
7) Maxim Iglinskiy (KAZ) – Astana
8) Yukiya Arashiro (JAP) – Team Europcar
9) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
10) Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
General classification (provisional)
1) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo – 7.51.54hrs
2) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +14”
3) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +34”