Being king of the hill a long-term objective for Dan Martin

Despite a recent setback Etixx QuickStep rider hopes to gain on leaders in mountain stages

Daniel Martin of Ireland and team Etixx QuickStep on the climb to Mont Ventoux during Thursday’s 12th stage. Photograph:Michael Steele/Getty Images.

Daniel Martin of Ireland and team Etixx QuickStep on the climb to Mont Ventoux during Thursday’s 12th stage. Photograph:Michael Steele/Getty Images.

 

Sitting third overall until Thursday marked the best general classification campaign thus far of Dan Martin’s career, showing that he is able to go head to head with many of the world’s best climbers.

The 29-year-old finished third overall in the pre-Tour Critérium du Dauphiné and carried the same form into the race, netting fourth on stage four to Cherbourg, fifth three days later into Le Lioran and then second into Bagnères de Luchon on stage eight.

Career best

A solid ride to the ski resort of Andorra Arcalis last Monday moved him up to a career-best third overall and boosted the prospect of a possible podium finish in Paris.

However Martin had an unexpected bad day on Thursday’s stage to Mont Ventoux, causing him to slide down to ninth overall.

He could have been discouraged, but pledged to fight on. With over a week left and several big mountain stages, he was able to keep things in perspective.

“The Tour de France is not over,” he said. “I’m not too far behind and I vow to fight. I’m the kind of rider who likes more a mountainous day than a big explosive effort, and fortunately such stages are yet to come.”

Martin’s general classification battle continued on Friday in the 37-kilometre time trial from Bourg Saint Andeol to Le Caverne de Pont. Traditionally his weakest discipline, he rode solidly against the clock to place 33rd.

Although he gave up four minutes and 10 seconds to the day’s winner Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and three minutes seven seconds to race leader Chris Froome (Sky), he was close to the time of those around him in the general classification.

This ensured that he held onto his ninth place overall, a result he was satisfied with.

“Safety first, that was my motto today,” he said. “After hearing that Julian (team-mate Julian Alaphilippe) hit the ground, I went with a normal wheel instead of a disc one at the cost of losing some seconds.

“Today, the wind definitely didn’t favour the light guys, so considering this and the fact that I focused more on my climbing this year, I’m happy with this result. My goal is to make it into the mountains in one piece and healthy, because my legs are good and I’m confident.”

Martin will begin Saturday’s 208-kilometre stage five minutes and three seconds behind yellow. He is less than two minutes off the rider in fifth overall, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) and, if he can avoid any more bad days and return to climbing as he did earlier in the Tour, should move back up the standings.

Consistency in the Tour has been a bugbear in the past for Martin and he will keep this in mind. That said, he has worked hard at his climbing since moving to Andorra last year and is also two kilos lighter than he was 12 months ago.

Those two factors together should lessen the load on him in the upcoming mountain stages and help him to slug it out with the sport’s big guns.

Big test

The next big test for Martin will be Sunday’s stage through the Jura mountains to Culoz. This includes the savage Grand Colombier and a subsequent first category climb, and will show how he has recovered. After Tuesday’s rest day the race moves into the Alps and there the final battles will rage, determining where he finishes in Paris.

Should he take a top-six overall finish he will have greater confidence that a podium may be within reach in 2017.

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