Dan Martin crashes on Stage 4 of the Tour of the Alps
Irish rider looked shaken after taking a tumble as Pello Bilbao went on to win
Dan Martin of Ireland and Team Israel Start-Up Nation during the 44th Tour of the Alps 2021, Stage 4. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images
Part rollercoaster and part balancing act and all about getting to the bottom as quickly as possible, Dan Martin found the final descent of Stage 4 of the Tour of the Alps just a little too technical and tricky to handle, crashing on one of the hairpin bends and with that losing his race for a podium position.
Just when the Irish rider looked to have done all the suitably hard work on the brutal final 10km climb on Boniprati, in third place and just 10 seconds down on the front duo of Aleksandr Vlasov and race leader Simon Yates, Martin came off with around 4.5km of the 6km decent to go, and although soon back on his bike lost vital time in the process.
At that point Martin was back in virtual third overall, although by the finish line in Pieve di Bono, Pello Bilbao of Bahrain-Victorious had caught both Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) and Yates (Team BikeExchange) and won the sprint to the line of what proved a duly Queen Stage.
With just Friday’s hilly stage to Riva del Garda to go, that moved Bilbao up to second overall, 58 seconds down on Yates, with Vlasov also up to third overall, 1:06 down.
Martin, clearly a little shaken, ended up 23rd on the day, 2:53 down, and with that the Israel Start-Up Nation rider dropped 10 places in the GC, and now sits 14th overall, 4:01 down on Yates, the British rider now virtually certain of the win unless he crashes.
Traditionally the last big test before the Giro d’Italia next month, Martin will still take plenty of encouragement from the week so far.
Nicholas Roche rode strongly again and was part of an eight-man breakaway that at one point were over two minutes ahead, before being caught before that final climb, and he finished the day in 83rd, 14:32 down, as did Chris Froome. The Israel Start-Up Nation rider was also part of that breakaway but now lies 94th on GC, 41:36 down, with Roche in 54th, the Team DSM rider on 17:57.
For the 31-year-old Bilbao, a first road race victory since his double at the 2019 Giro d’Italia, it also provided a suitable dedication to Michele Scarponi, his former teammate at Astana who died four years ago to the day: “These descents are not ones to do every day. “ he said. “It’s not possible to take these risks every day, but today was a special day - I want to dedicate this victory to Scarpa, to Michele, so I gave it everything.
“Before coming to this race, I was already thinking that it’s a perfect race for the spectators - also for me. I love these kinds of stages where it’s not just about legs - you can play cards in a different way like yesterday. It’s a race I really enjoy. I like to play in these kinds of races.”