Dan Martin Diary - Day 12: Steering clear of trouble as the sprinters fall
‘It could have been a ruinous end to the day, but overall it wasn’t bad’
Dan Martin’s Garmin-Sharp team-mate Jack Bauer is treated along with Lotto Belisol rider Gregory Henderson during yesterday’s 12th stage. Photograph: AP Photo
For those of us who are looking to ride well in the mountain stages and the general classification of the Tour de France, the flat stages are dangerous, in terms of the risks of crashes.
It was a close call yesterday inside the final three kilometres when a big group of riders became entangled and clattered to the ground.
Myself and Garmin-Sharp team-mate Andrew Talansky were pretty close to it; it is testament to the bike handling in the peloton that a lot more riders didn’t hit the deck. The 20 guys in front of us had both wheels locked up, trying to stop. And everybody held it upright.
Another team-mate, Jack Bauer, went down in the crash and ended up under a load of riders, but he seems to be okay.
His helmet saved him.
It could have been a ruinous end to the day, but overall it wasn’t bad.
There is a lot of debate about safety at the Tour. It’s a sport that has crashes, of course, but there always seems to be a lot more of them at the finishes of the Tour. It’s happened towards the end of every one of the sprint stages.
I am not sure why that is, but a big reason is the importance of the race and the fact that a lot of guys are willing to take more risks to be up there. It’s not fair to blame it on the general classification guys, as some do. It is more a case of riders trying everything to be in the top 10 of a stage, as this race is of such a high importance to teams and sponsors, and in terms of personal results.
People take extra chances to be up there and there are just too many guys riding on their limit.
That’s bad for the sprinters, of course, but also for the general classification riders. We just want to stay out of trouble, but we also are aware that if gaps appear in the bunch, you can end up losing a lot of time.
The UCI has a rule where if there is a crash inside the final three kilometres and riders are delayed as a result, they get the same time as the group with whom they are with.
That’s good, that helps, but I don’t think it is enough. If there are simply gaps as a result of the racing, you can lose out that way. It means that the general classification riders have to keep pushing forward and that means getting in the way of the sprinters’ teams.
What’s the way around the problem? Well, maybe the three kilometre rule should be implemented every day, happening automatically instead of waiting for a crash for that to happen.
That would mean that the organisers take the time calculations from the three kilometre to go point, so the riders going for the classification don’t have to worry after that point.
The sprinters can then get on with their thing and we can leave them to it.
I think the reason the UCI and the organisers don’t have that rule is because they’re worried that the whole peloton will just sit up with three kilometres to go. But there is enough professionalism in the bunch that it wouldn’t happen. It would just be safer.
It is really exiting for us to be able to see a straight-off sprint between the two guys but it’s unfortunate that André Greipel wasn’t there as well to see a straight-off drag race between the three of them. He was delayed in the crash.
Anyway, from what I have seen from the video afterwards, it seemed like a good, clean fight. It was just a drag race and Kittel was simply faster.
I think it shows a lot about how quickly things can change in the sport.
Everybody was saying for the last few years that Cavendish is unbeatable and that he is going to take four or five stages every year. Now you have got this young German who has come through, was faster in that sprint and has won three stages.
The situation for Cavendish is similar to that which applies to Peter Sagan. You can see that these are not as unbeatable as some people think.
Personally, the day was fine for me. I didn’t feel too tired after the time trial, although I was a bit empty halfway through the stage. But that’s to be expected.
The Garmin-Sharp guys did a great job of keeping me in position and also out of the wind.
I had a good chat with Nicolas Roche at the start, with the two of us catching up for the first 20km or so. He has been riding for Alberto Contador this year but he seems fine with that and is learning from his new role. He changed to Team Saxo Tinkoff over the winter and you can also see the fruits of that in his time trialling.
Nicolas had a strong time trial on Wednesday, due partly to the changes in his position that the team has made this year.
That is a good bonus and it is definitely something that will help him when he gets his own opportunity later in the year.
Nico is riding for Contador now, but he will get his chance in other races.