Dan Martin’s Diary, Stage 18: Everything changes when you are sick
‘It is just an unfortunate set of circumstances. I picked the worst day in the Tour to get sick.’
AG2r La Mondiale team rider Christophe Riblon of France on l’Alpe d’Huez yesterday on his way to winning Stage 18 of the Tour de France. Photograph: Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters
Well, that certainly didn’t go to plan. On the most famous climb in cycling, on the day when I’d be riding past a thousand Irish fans on Alpe d’Huez, my aim of taking my second stage win in this year’s Tour de France fizzled out due to illness. As I write this I’m pretty wasted, coughing and feeling sick, and wishing that things had worked out differently.
I actually didn’t feel too bad when I woke up. I was coughing a bit more than I had been the last couple of days, but I thought it was nothing out of the ordinary, really. Even in the team bus, I didn’t feel too bad at all.
However when we hit the first climb, my legs and my whole body were just empty. It was just a fight for survival. I wasn’t coughing or anything then, but every muscle in my body was hurting. I was dripping with sweat, yet I was cold at the same time. It was just something really not going right with my body.
I pushed on and was well positioned at the top of the Col d’Ornon, the climb before Alpe d’Huez. I knew the downhill would be technical and that you needed to be at the front to be at the bottom of Alpe d’Huez in good position.
However when we came out onto the big road at Bourg d’Oisans, just before the climb, everybody started going hard to get to the foot of the Alpe in the best place. I just lost my place, I didn’t have any power in the legs at all.
Normally I would have been right there at the front at the bottom of the climb, but I ended up being really badly positioned because I didn’t have any energy.
It meant that I was off the back and in a group when we were approaching the huge numbers of Irish fans at corner ten. I had hoped to be right up there at that point but it wasn’t to be. Still, it was incredible to ride past them – I jumped away from the group I was with beforehand so I could really enjoy it and give something back to them.
They all came over to see myself and Nicolas and unfortunately I couldn’t put on a show. But that is what made it so incredible – I know they all appreciate the fact that I wasn’t 100 percent and I would have been at the front if I could have been. They still gave a great reception regardless.
It is just an unfortunate set of circumstances. I picked the worst day in the Tour to get sick. But it also does explain why my time trial was so bad on Wednesday, despite it being on a course that suited me. I had a similar feeling in my legs on Alpe d’Huez, I just couldn’t go hard at all. My body was just not responding to the effort I was putting in.