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Tour de France stage 11: A race against the clock

Tour de France riders will race against the clock rather than each other on Wednesday as stage 11 sees the first big time trial of this year's competition. German Tony Martin is the standout favourite to win the 33 kilometre race to Mont Saint Michel.

Tour de France stage 11: A race against the clock

*CLICK FOR RESULT AND REPORT OF THE STAGE 11 TIME TRIAL

Germany's reigning world champion Tony Martin is expected to dominate the first big time trial of the 100th Tour de France, but race leader Chris Froome is waiting to pounce.

Martin, a two-time world champion in the discipline, has been to hell and back on the race so far having survived atrocious injuries from a crash on the first stage to continue for his Omega-Pharma team.

For Scot David Millar, there will be only one winner of Wednesday's 33-kilometre race against the clock from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel.

"I think Tony Martin's going to kill it, to be honest. He's just on a different level," Millar told AFP on Tuesday.

"I'll give it my best shot, but my objectives here are more team-orientated so I don't have any real expectations to be honest."

As far as expectations go, Martin is unequivocal. He expects to win and says he will be disappointed if he doesn't.

"I'm feeling good and I expect to win tomorrow. If I don't, I will be really disappointed," said the German, who lost swathes of skin off his back legs, arms and buttocks on the opening day crash.

One injury in particular, a deep cut above his elbow, was so bad that reporters could see the muscle due to the absence of skin. Instead of stitching up the injury, doctors have used a special cream due to fears that stitching could lead to infection.

While a win for Martin would help boost the Omega-Pharma team a day after teammate Mark Cavendish came only third on stage 10's bunch sprint, other teams are looking nervously at Sky.

Froome left several yellow jersey rivals behind on his way to a solo victory atop Ax-Trois-Domaines on Saturday, prompting an angry response a day later.

Sky were attacked by several teams in the peloton and after his main mountain helper Richie Porte was dropped, Froome was left isolated before eventually coming over the finish with his lead intact.

In the race of truth, it's man against man and Froome should be in contention for the win. The same cannot be said for second-placed Alejandro Valverde, who's 1min 25sec adrift, or Cadel Evans, 16th at 4:36.

Spain's Alberto Contador, also known as a formidable time triallist but who has been under par this year, will saddle up more in hope than expectation that he will not lose too much time to the Kenyan-born Briton who leads the race.

"I would prefer to be where Froome is, especially before the time trial, which will favour him," the Spaniard, who is sixth at 1:51, admitted on Monday.

Froome believes Martin will "probably do a great time trial", but said he is focusing solely on his own performance.

"The time trial will be a good opportunity for the general classification. I will hope to keep the advantage I have already," he said.

"At this point I can't really look at the other guys. Then, from tomorrow evening we'll look at the results and evaluate from there. But I hope to extend my lead on the general classification."

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French football clubs in strike threat over 75% tax

France’s top football clubs are threatening to go on strike in protest at the government’s plans to impose a 75 percent tax on them. Ligue 1 and 2 clubs are considering refusing to play fixtures scheduled for the weekend of October 26/27th, it emerged this week.

French football clubs in strike threat over 75% tax
What happens next? PSG's galacticos Zlatan Ibrahimovic (L), Edison Cavani (C) and captain Thiago Silva (R). Will a strike by French clubs overturn a 75-percent tax on salaries? Photo: JS Evrard

The biggest football clubs in France are far from happy with the prospect of having to pay a 75-percent tax on the salaries of their millionaire players, it would seem.

The UCPF (Union of Professional Football Clubs), comprising France’s top two divisions, Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, this week threatened to go on strike against the ‘super-tax.’

The union’s executive committee agreed unanimously on Tuesday to protest in some way against the tax rate, which is set to be in force for 2014 and 2015, and therefore applied to earnings for 2013 and 2014.

“Everything is possible, tensions are very high,” Bernard Caïazzo, president of St. Etienne football club told Le Journal Du Dimanche (JDD).

Strike action could even take place as quickly as next weekend, according to sources cited by JDD. A proposal for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 clubs to boycott fixtures over the weekend of October 26th gained significant support at Tuesday’s meeting.

The UCPF is set to meet on Thursday October 24th to finalize what form their protest will take, with France’s National Assembly scheduled to debate the new tax, beginning next week.

France’s sports minister Velerie Fourneyron confirmed in September that the country’s football clubs will not be exempt from the new 75 percent super tax.

The tax, one of President François Hollande’s flagship election proposals, is included in the government’s 2014 budget, but has not yet been approved by parliament.

Under the proposal, companies will be liable to pay the 75 tax rate for the portion of employees' salaries above €1 million annually.

And despite warnings from France’s football chiefs that the French top flight would be ruined if clubs had to pay the tax, Fourneyron insisted there will be no exceptions to the rule.

“There are no special measures. Football will be affected by the tax on high incomes,” the minister told Le Figaro at the time.

“Why should clubs be exempt from this tax?” she added.

SEE ALSO: France tops European league of millionaires

According to a study cited by Le Parisien on Thursday, French Ligue 1 clubs would be forced to shell out a combined total of €44 million under the 75-percent tax rule, on the million-euro salaries of 115 players and eight managers.

The level of contributions vary widely between clubs, with minnows Ajaccio and Guingamp, who have just one €1-million employee each paying €50,000, to champions Paris Saint-Germain, whose payroll includes 21 millionaires, including manager Laurent Blanc.

Under the planned tax scheme, PSG alone would pay a whopping €20 million extra in taxes.

Sports minister Fourneyron, however, did offer French clubs some comfort when confirming they would be liable to the 75-percent rate, announcing a cap on the tax.

The revenue from tax will be capped at 5 percent of turnover of clubs in order to reflect “the fragile economic model of football clubs”, she said at the time.

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