Tony Martin
Stage four of the 2015 Tour de France was 138.8 miles long, featuring seven sections of cobbles.AFP

Tony Martin broke clear to win the fourth stage of the Tour de France and take the yellow jersey from Chris Froome.

The German went for home with just over a mile of the stage left and used the legs that have powered him to three world time-trial titles to win.

But Froome will not be disappointed at losing the lead having come through unscathed from the seven sections of cobbles that could have wrecked his race. The 2013 champion finished safely in the main bunch to maintain his advantage over his key rivals for the general classification.

Froome's Team Sky will also not have the pressure of defending the maillot jaune for the next few days before the race hits the Pyrenees.

Martin had missed out on the yellow jersey by just one second in the previous two stages. The Etixx Quick-Step rider lost out in the Netherlands on Sunday (5 July) when his teammate Mark Cavendish eased up on the line.

And Froome's second place in Belgium on Monday also cost Martin, who was expected to win the opening time trial, the coveted jersey.

Martin could not hide his delight as he crossed the line in Cambrai, punching the air several times.

The stage was the longest of the whole race at 138.8miles (223.5km) with the peleton leaving Belgium heading towards the World War One battlefields of France.

But it was also feared to be one of the toughest with a return to the cobbles that had a dramatic impact last year. Froome's race was over 12 months ago just before he got to the pave, or rough stones, after he crashed three times in less than 24 hours.

The riders faced seven sections of the rough stuff with a bone-jarring six of them in the last 25 miles before the finish.

But with Geraint Thomas leading him across, Froome was never seriously threatened despite a couple of attacks from defending champion Vincenzo Nibali.

The only worrying moment came on the road when he got a dig in the ribs from a Katusha rider which briefly forced him into a kerb, but he stayed upright.