Dan Martin narrowly missed out on winning stage eight of the Tour de France on Saturday, attacking close to the top of the Mûr-de-Bretagne climb and finishing five seconds behind Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R La Mondiale).
Martin had identified the stage as a big target, having been both encouraged and frustrated by his fourth place on the Mur de Huy climb last Monday.
He stated in his Irish Times diary on Saturday that he believed he could win atop the Mûr-de-Bretagne but was boxed in at a crucial moment.
Because of that, he was initially unable to respond when Vuillermoz made his move inside the final kilometre.
By the time he was able to get clear of the bunch, the young Frenchman had a buffer that Martin was unable to close.
“Everybody was stuck on the right hand barrier and I was there too,” said Martin. “There was nowhere to go. As soon as I saw him go it was exactly where I wanted to go, but I just couldn’t get out. I had the legs, I just wasn’t on the right side of the group.
“Initially I was coming back to him pretty fast. Obviously that was my attack and then it was just like a slow motion time trial to the line.”
The strength of Martin's form can be seen by the fact that he opened a five second gap on the others who were in the front group. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took the sprint for third ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), who takes over the green jersey as points leader.
Further back, race leader and 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Sky) was eighth, while other general classification contenders Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) were 10th, 14th and 17th respectively.
Last year's race winner Vincenzo Nibali cracked inside the final kilometre and finished 20 seconds behind Vuillermoz, taking 30th place.
The stage outcome sees Froome remain in yellow, 11 seconds clear of Sagan and a further two up on van Garderen.
Martin is 31st, seven minutes 53 seconds back while Nicolas Roche and Sam Bennett are 85th and 178th respectively.
The race continues Sunday with a team time trial. Martin’s Cannondale-Garmin team did a lot of work to try to set the stage up for him and he was asked if he had any concerns that the squad might be tired for the race against the clock.
“We have been hiding all week and we knew this stage was for us,” he said, playing down such talk.
“They rode great for me. I was so relaxed, I have never been so relaxed coming into the final. Fresh as a daisy, but I couldn’t quite finish it off. I am disappointed, but we will try again.”
He confirmed that he will try again next week in the Pyrenees. “Every day is an opportunity now, for sure. I obviously have good legs, but I am just disappointed to miss the stage win today.”
TOUR DE FRANCE STAGE 8
(Rennes - Mûr-de-Bretagne): 1 AVuillermoz (AG2R La Mondiale) 181.5 kilometres in 4 hours 20 mins 55 secs,; 2 D Martin (Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team) at 5 secs, 3 A Valverde (Movistar Team) at 10 secs, 4 P Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), 5 T Gallopin (Lotto Soudal), 6 G Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team). Other Irish: 139 N Roche (Team Sky at 7 mins 58 secs; 158 S Bennett (Bora-Argon) 18
General classification after stage 8: 1 C Froome (Team Sky) 31 hours 1 min 56 secs, 2 P Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) at 11 secs, 3 T Van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) at 13 secs, 4 T Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) at 26 secs, 5 G Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) at 28 secs, 6 R Uran (Etixx - Quick-Step) at 34 secs.
Irish: 31 D Martin (Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team) at 7 mins 53 secs, 85 N Roche (Team Sky) at 25 mins 25 secs; 178 S Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) at 56 mins 28 secs.