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Win gives Martin overall lead in Tour

CAMBRAI, France — German rider Tony Martin won the fourth stage of the Tour de France to take the overall lead, while Chris Froome and his main rivals safely came through the treacherous cobblestones on Tuesday.

Martin, one second behind Froome overall before the stage started, broke away from Froome's yellow jersey group some 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the end.

Froome and others let him go, knowing that Martin is not a Tour contender.

The 30-year-old Martin, a three-time world time trial champion who finished second behind Rohan Dennis in the opening stage's time trial, finally got the yellow jersey he craves and fell into the arms of his teammates once they had joined him over the line. Countryman John Degenkolb finished second and Slovak Peter Sagan was third.

With the time bonuses from his stage win, he leads Froome by 12 seconds and American rider Tejay Van Garderen by 25 seconds.

Defending Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali, who built last year's win on the back of a brilliant performance on the slippery cobbles, tried repeatedly to crack Froome's resistance over the seven paved sections.

But Froome, who crashed out of last year's Tour on the fifth stage after three falls in two days, held his nerve well.

He overcame one nervous moment when he almost lost control of his bike on the road, but having come through some stress-filled days of racing unscathed, his confidence is growing as he bids to win back the title he won in 2013. He leads Alberto Contador by 36 seconds; Nibali by 1:38 and Nairo Quintana by 1:56.

After Monday's dramatic spill, riders were hardly relishing taking on the cobbles dotted along the 223.5-kilometer (138.6-mile) trek from Seraing and to Cambrai, as the showcase race crossed the Meuse river in Belgium's Walloon region before swinging back into France.

Today's mostly flat fifth stage, over 189.5 kilometers (117.5 miles) will be a welcome relief after a demanding few days.