Dan Martin Diary – Day 16: Negative tactics spoil my chance

Other teams were playing games which wouldn’t let me away

Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 11:00

I moved from 11th up to 10th overall on stage 16 but things could have been better than that if the bunch had given us some leeway. There was a big group that went away at the start of the stage and we had two Garmin-Sharp riders in there, Ryder Hesjedal and Ramunas Navardauskas. I jumped across at the top of the first climb and made it into the breakaway.

Because I was over eight minutes back in the overall standings I thought that I’d get a bit of leeway but instead the Sky team of race leader Chris Froome started chasing me down. We didn’t really expect that.

Also, the other teams in the break started racing against us rather than trying to hold off Sky. They felt that me being there was affecting their chances of staying away and because of that, all of the other guys in the move stopped riding. They were just sitting there, looking at us.

It was frustrating, needless to say. We were trying to take the race to Sky, and everyone else was riding defensively rather than aggressively.

High stakes
Part of it also was because some of the riders in the move were the team-mates of the riders who were in front of me in the general classification, and they didn’t want me to gain any time. It is the third week of the Tour, and this kind of thing tends to happen.

I think it is because the stakes are so high. A lot of teams and riders don’t have the same attitude I have . . . they are willing to put everything on the line to defend ninth position, rather than going, riding hard and searching to improve.

There are all sorts of competitions going on at the moment, such as the team classification, the best young rider standings and all that. The tactics are quite negative when you come into the final week. People are also feeling a bit scared about the time trial today and the remaining stages. It means they are less willing to knuckle down than they were earlier in the race.

Anyway, the bunch made the junction about 35 kilometres after the start.

It didn’t work out
Some of the riders pushed forward again in another move, including Ramunas, but Ryder missed out. It was a bit unfortunate – I felt bad as I obviously ruined Ryder’s chance for a stage win. But they were the Garmin-Sharp team tactics at the start of the day, and we rode to the letter of what we had decided on the team bus. It was just unfortunate that it didn’t work.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful until we hit that last climb, the Col de Manse. There the Katusha team nuked the whole group. It was pretty crazy how it detonated the whole peloton, breaking it into pieces.

I think the way things fragmented showed two things: firstly, how the rest day affects people and can mess up your muscles, and secondly how hard this race has been.

The energy I burned up early on may have cost me on that final climb. I went a bit into the red and got dropped, but managed to fight my way back into the group that I ultimately finished in, one minute behind the yellow jersey. I think if I hadn’t burned up energy early on I might have been in that select group, but we had made that decision to ride aggressively at the start.

One of the big stories after the stage was Alberto Contador’s crash on the decent and how Chris Froome nearly came down. Contador was racing hard because he wants to get time back from Froome and win the race. For those guys who are willing to take risks, there is some respect due to them.

Obviously that downhill is already renowned for being dangerous due to Joseba Beloki’s crash in 2003 and the famous Lance Armstrong incident, where he went off the road to avoid him and ended up riding across the field. Everybody knew that downhill was dangerous.

I am actually not looking forward to the fact that they seem to think Froome can’t descend, because it now means that riders are going to do all the downhills flat out now. Obviously that is part of racing and if you can take advantage of another rider’s weakness – it doesn’t matter if it is uphill, downhill or on the flat – you have to do it.

Next up is the time trial and we are hoping that the weather doesn’t turn. The rumour is that it is going to be raining for it. It will make the time trial more difficult due to the two technical downhills that are on the course.

Really dangerous
I checked out the route of the time trial back in June and the first downhill was tricky, with melted roads and stuff. We might not have that problem if it is raining, but it is a really dangerous, technical downhill anyway. And the second one is a very, very fast descent.

I think it is the most technically demanding time trial there has ever been in the Tour de France. It is also incredibly hard – I think there is a 1200 metre altitude gain in 32 kilometres, so it is going to be a real test.

It suits me a lot better than the time trial last week, so am hoping to have a good result.

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