Dan Martin wins ninth stage of Tour de France
Martin becomes first Irish rider to claim a stage win since Stephen Roche in 1992
As Martin celebrated Froome looked on in blessed relief after finishing with his main rivals 20 seconds back. He countered a day of brutal hills with stubborn will and legs that stayed strong while his team-mates went wobbly.
dMeanwhile Team Sky’s principal, Dave Brailsford, sounded almost thrilled that his riders had suffered a swift and sharp rejoinder following Froome’s victory on the Ax 3 Domaines.
“On Saturday night everyone was saying ‘That’s it’, pulling long faces, game over and let’s go and watch the tennis,” he said. “That’s why this sport and this race is so brilliant.”
Yesterday was the cycling equivalent of a bad hangover – with the three riders that had worked hardest to put Froome into yellow suffering most.
The damage began on the day’s first climb, the Col de Portet d’Aspet, with Peter Kennaugh tumbling down a verge after being clipped by Garmin-Sharp’s Ryder Hesjedal. Luckily a bush broke his fall but he was still left with a bloody elbow.
Out of the race
Shortly afterwards Richie Porte, who had looked so strong at the vanguard up the Ax 3 Domaines, was dropped before coming in 17min 39sec back. And Vasili Kiryienka, who had also put in some big turns on Saturday, finished outside the time limit and is out of the race.
With Froome unprotected, the Movistar team of Alejandro Valverde sensed an opportunity. On the final climb of the day they sent Nairo Quintana, a classic Colombian escarabajo – flying beetle – who ascends for fun on the attack. He tried four times to wriggle free up the La Hourquette d’Ancizan, hoping to wound Froome so that Valverde could apply the kill. It never came.
“I felt quite within myself on that last climb but they did go for me,” said Froome. “It is not easy to follow Quintana. He is a little Colombian who can fly up hills so to cover his attacks definitely wasn’t easy.”
At the finish Brailsford was asked whether Sky’s struggles yesterday had showed his team were not superhuman after all. He nodded, adding: “That’s what we keep trying to tell everybody. People don’t want to believe it. Maybe they will after today. ”
He was supported by David Millar, who said he understood why Team Sky were secretive about their training methods.
“If we had their numbers we would be copying their training files and we’d know what to do to beat them. It’s better for them to remain slightly enigmatic. If you have a recipe which obviously work, why give away that recipe?”
Millar was also dismissive of suggestions comparing Team Sky with Lance Armstrong’s disgraced US Postal team.
“Even if we are saying Sky aren’t transparent, it’s night and day to what Postal was. They know they’re clean, they feel they’re doing it all right and perhaps rightfully so. They’re just very defensive about that. They think they are lumbered with another generation’s mistakes.”– Guardian Service.
Additional reporting: PA