Dan Martin and Tour de France leaders should yield stage to sprinters
Mostly flat stage should suit Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan
Britain’s Mark Cavendish will relish his chance in today’s stage. Photograph:Laurent Cipriani/AP Photo
After Monday’s rest day, the Tour de France riders get back into action today with a flat, likely windy and potentially very fast stage in the cycling heartland of Brittany. Following two tough days in the mountains at the weekend, the pendulum swings back towards the bigger riders this week with the first of several sprint stages taking place today along the 193.5 kilometre route between Saint Gildas des Bois and Saint Malo.
For the climbers, who inflicted so much discomfort on the sprinters on Saturday and Sunday, it is a time when they must take a step back and let the bulkier riders return to centre stage. There’s just one category four climb on today’s route, the small Côte de Dinan 55 kilometres from the end, and that offers little to those who want to try to win from a breakaway.
In all likelihood Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma Quick Step), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol), and Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) will fight it out among themselves to take a second stage win, and also to continue their rivalry in the green jersey competition.
Sagan is the runaway leader in that at present, due to his haul of maximum points on Friday. Sagan is fast enough to limit his losses even if Cavendish, the quickest flat-stage sprinter in the world, gets things right and takes the win.
For race leader Chris Froome (Sky) and the other general classification contenders, there are two goals: stay out of trouble in terms of crashes, and also avoid the sorts of splits in the bunch which could cost them time. The same applies to Ireland’s Dan Martin, who won Sunday’s stage and moved up to eighth overall.
Martin’s performance has been hailed by his Garmin-Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters, who has said that he expects more strong showings in the race.
Surprisingly, though, although Martin is in line for a top-10 finish, Vaughters has said that he doesn’t want the team to zone in too much on that aspect for now. “I don’t want to get too focussed on the general classification race just yet because I like the way the team raced Sunday, where we risked everything and threw it on the line,” he told The Irish Times.
“But with the confidence that Dan will get out of his win, he certainly won’t go slower once we get to the Alps. I would look for him to be great there.
“He has also been time trialling better and better as the years pass, and was a good part of our team time trial efforts earlier in the race. I think he will do a reasonable time trial as well.”
Martin faces a time trial on Wednesday and then another one a week later. His performances there will go a long way towards determining where he finishes overall in Paris.
Vaughters has long emphasised the need for Martin to improve at his own pace rather than being pushed to perform too young. However following his showings thus far in this Tour, he is more upbeat about the future.
“He seems to step up a level each year and if he continues that progression, then I think winning a Grand Tour at some point in the future is a possibility for him. I think he will be capable of that,” Vaughters said. “But what will be crucial is having the right course; for example, he could be in the form of his life and I don’t think he would have had a chance on the route of last year’s Tour, due to all the time trials.
“With the right route, though, one that emphasises the mountains and de-emphasises the time trials, then I think that he can become a challenger for the win in the future.”