Dan Martin: Mountains to climb? No problem, they might even win me a stage

Seeing yellow jersey of Tony Martin forced to retire from race through injury was a huge pity

Tour de France leader Tony Martin was forced to retire from race after sustaining a broken collarbone in a crash. Photograph: EP.

Tour de France leader Tony Martin was forced to retire from race after sustaining a broken collarbone in a crash. Photograph: EP.

 

The opening week of the Tour de France may have been largely flat, but it’s been a real rollercoaster ride for some. Nowhere is this more clear than in the case of the German rider Tony Martin, who was second overall for three days, took over the yellow jersey when he won stage four and then crashed out inside the final kilometre of Thursday’s stage six.

I wasn’t really anywhere near the crash when it happened, I was a bit further back. But the road got blocked by him and the other riders on the ground and I got stuck behind it. Obviously seeing the yellow jersey go out like that is a big pity, and Tony is a very good guy.

It’s actually happened twice now in this race, the yellow jersey being involved in a big crash and going out as a result. Okay, Fabian Cancellara lost his jersey because of the time he conceded on the final climb to Huy, but it can be said that he conceded that the time because of the fall which caused two fractures to his spine.

Hopes dashed

He didn’t start the next morning and so crashes have ruled out two guys who were in yellow.

I can’t imagine what that feels like, not having been in that position, but I did crash out of the 2013 Vuelta a España due to concussion and that was pretty tough.

For all the riders who can’t continue in a race, it is really hard to leave your team-mates and head home early. That’s especially the case with Tony as his team has had such success in the race but, whoever it is, you kind of feel almost guilty for leaving your team in the trenches.

That’s part of the reason why it’s so hard to watch the rest of a race on television afterwards . . . you just wish you were still there, even just to help out.

For those of us still in this year’s Tour, we just move on very quickly. It’s the case that it happened and you can’t change it, so you just push on.

Martin’s Etixx - Quick-Step team was able to bounce back really well despite the bad luck. They won Thursday’s stage, with Zdenek Stybar attacking just after the crash and soloing in for the win. Then yesterday Mark Cavendish got victory after a few near misses in sprints earlier this week.

I tried to talk to Mark with about 40km to go on Friday’s stage. He wasn’t very talkative. You could see the pressure on him then, and, after he won, you could see from his victory celebration the release of that pressure. He really wanted to win, he’s very driven and when he did it that weight was off his shoulders.

I’m nearly the same age as him and was a junior at the same time. I’ve known him for years, even if we don’t spend much time talking. In races he’s normally surrounded by his team and he is very concentrated.

Relaxed mindset

I tend to do things differently. I go for different stages to him, the hilly ones rather than the sprints, but whereas he goes into that intense focus I always seem to turn it into a more relaxed atmosphere.

When it is my day to perform, I use talking as a way of relaxing. I feel that if you ride around focusing, thinking about you have to do all the time, it makes for a long, long day. So I just try to relax as much as possible and not lose energy through stress.

As I’ve lost time from my crash earlier this week I’m not thinking about the general classification any more. That’s helped me to keep relaxed as I don’t have to fight to be at the front and it doesn’t matter if there is a split in the bunch near the end.

I’ve been doing things that way for the past three days, with the big aim being to save as much energy as possible for the upcoming mountains.

Obviously we all come to the Tour and everybody wants to win a stage. Accomplishing that goal for the team means so much; it was like when I took that win in 2013, it takes the pressure right off. The sponsors are happy and the race is a success no matter what happens after that.

Uphill struggle

I gave it a shot on stage three to Huy and got fourth there. I’m going to give it a go again Saturday on the stage to the Mur de Bretagne, which is another short, steep uphill to the line.

Although I don’t know the finish, I will look it up on Youtube later and see what it is like. On paper it is a really good finish for me. On last Monday’s stage to the Mur de Huy the general classification guys were attacking and that made it a bit of a different race, but hopefuly I will be a bit out of their thoughts now due to the time I have lost.

I can perhaps take advantage of them watching each other, sneak away and take the win. It’s a huge goal for me. As I said, I don’t feel the same kind of pressure Cavendish does for his type of stages, but there is that same elation in victory.

That sensation is what we do it for. It is what you train so hard for, why you suffer, why you put in the effort. It’s all about having that feeling of crossing the line first.

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