Dan Martin’s Tour de France Diary: ‘I simply couldn’t push the pedals’

Display suggests we got things very wrong in managing our rest day

“One team that certainly got things right is Chris Froome’s Sky. He blasted clear and dominated the stage.” Photograph: Yoan Valat/Epa.

“One team that certainly got things right is Chris Froome’s Sky. He blasted clear and dominated the stage.” Photograph: Yoan Valat/Epa.

 

Rest days are always a little unpredictable in a race such as the Tour de France. Riders have been digging deep for a week or more, then you have a day of no competition. Each team handles that differently; you have to try to work out what is the optimal amount of training to do, both in terms of duration and also intensity.

The problem is that if you don’t do anything at all, your legs are very sluggish. If you do too much, you eat into your fuel stores. It’s all about getting that balance right.

On the basis of how Tuesday went for my Cannondale-Garmin team, we got things very wrong. It was the first mountain stage of the Tour, ending with a long climb up the La Pierre-Saint-Martin ascent, and we just had no power at all.

At the small climb at the very start of the race I felt fine, no problem at all, but then I got to the big mountain to the finish and I was just completely empty. The boys had done an incredible job putting us into position, we didn’t waste any energy at all, but then when the pressure came on the legs just didn’t respond.

I simply couldn’t push the pedals. I wasn’t breathing hard on the last climb, I literally didn’t have the strength to do anything. It wasn’t just me; the team’s other co-leader Andrew Talansky went out the back at the same time, so it was something affecting both of us.

Second Captains

All I can think about is that it was the rest day, and also perhaps that we hadn’t done any climbing in so long.

Well off my best

One consolation is that I know my form is good based on what I’d done earlier in the Tour. It’s not a question of condition, but rather how we managed the rest day. In fact, there were some other riders too who didn’t perform as expected, who were well off where they would normally be.

One team that certainly got things right is Chris Froome’s Sky. He blasted clear and dominated the stage, while there were two others in the top six, namely Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas. Froome is obviously in very good condition at the moment, but as I say, the stage wasn’t really a clear reflection of where guys’ form is at.

While riders like Alberto Contador and last year’s winner Vincenzo Nibali lost a lot of time, I definitely believe they could turn things around in a day or two. That’s for certain. Contador had a lot of attention around him before the race as he is trying to do the Giro d’Italia/Tour de France double. It hasn’t been done since 1998 but he believed it was possible.

Ambitious plan

So what do I expect to happen next? I think you are going to see a very, very aggressive race now as there are a lot of guys who don’t have anything to lose. You could see some very big name riders attacking from a long way out in the coming days in order to try to make big time gains. Also, to try to isolate Sky as well. They are the clear target and I think the are definitely going to find themselves under attack now. There will be almost a coalition of 21 teams against them.

Final thoughts about Ivan Basso; on the rest day he announced he was leaving the race as he had just been diagnosed with testicular cancer. It is always a shock when there are announcements like that in the peloton. It is a bit of an awakening, a reminder about how vulnerable we are and how sport is the least of our worries at some times. There are definitely more important things.

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