Dan Martin looking to gain time in mountains of Paris-Nice
Tour de France: Irish cyclist will have to rely on strong climbing form to reach podium
Dan Martin: Placed 22nd, one minute 36 seconds off the yellow jersey. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Dan Martin faces a three-day battle if he is to repeat his feat of 2017, namely finishing on the final podium of Paris-Nice. The Irish climber finished in the depleted main bunch on Thursday’s fifth stage of the race, crossing the line in Sisteron four seconds behind Frenchman Jérôme Cousin (Direct Énergie) and two behind Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin).
Martin placed 38th, while his first cousin and compatriot Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing Team) was 65th, 26 seconds behind Cousin.
Luis León Sánchez (Astana) continues to lead overall. The Spaniard is 15 seconds ahead of Wout Poels (Team Sky) and 26 up on Julian Alaphilippe of the Quick-Step Floors team. Martin is 22nd, one minute 36 seconds off the yellow jersey.
The UAE Team Emirates rider lost time on Wednesday’s time trial, a discipline he is solid rather than spectacular in. He placed 34th, one minute 21 seconds adrift of the winner, Poels, and thus incurred a time loss he would rather have avoided.
Roche was 62nd in the test, two minutes and 10 seconds adrift, although he is not the team’s designated general classification rider in the race and so had little incentive to go as deep as Martin did.
With the race ending on Sunday, Martin has to make up considerable time to secure a podium place. That looks unlikely, but he can still try to show strong climbing form in the days to come. The race continues on Friday with a mountainous stage towards the Côte d’Azur. It features four category 2 climbs, with a category 1 ascent close to the finish at Vence.
The terrain could well suit Martin’s abilities, as should Saturday’s mountain stage to the top of the Valdeblore La Colmiane. He has one final chance to make up time on Sunday’s concluding stage to Nice. It features four category 2 climbs plus two first-category ascents, although descending and flat roads inside the final 9km may limit the time gains which can be made.
Sam Bennett had hoped to shine in the sprints, particularly as he won a stage last year. However, after netting a solid 11th on stage 2, he came down with illness and was a non-finisher on stage three.
Meanwhile, Ryan Mullen is the sole Irish rider in Tirreno-Adriatico, and has been doing some strong work for his Trek-Segafredo team. He is a powerful time trialist and won the race against the clock in the Vuelta a San Juan earlier this year. He will be targeting the final time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto on Tuesday. It is completely flat and will play to his strengths.