Dan Martin’s Tour de France diary: Illness takes it toll on riders

Searing heat means demand for water is higher than ever while Froome has work to do

Dan Martin believes Tour de France leader Chris Froome still has plenty to do in order tow in the race.

Dan Martin believes Tour de France leader Chris Froome still has plenty to do in order tow in the race.

 

Being such a long race at three weeks, the Tour de France can bring all sorts of challenges. Everyone knows about the mountains, and we also had cobbles this year plus some very strong winds in the opening week.

However for the riders of the Tour de France there is another very important factor; that of health. Everyone is digging in really deeply and that plus the varied weather conditions can leave us all exposed to getting sick. Some other riders have suffered early on, with illness forcing some out of the race. It was my turn to pick up something and I really didn’t feel great on Friday. Looking back, I think it probably started on the rest day. I had a little bit of a sore throat then. Perhaps that is why I went so bad on the day after the rest day. Now it seems to have developed into a bit of a cough.

Fortunately it is nothing serious, we are not worried about me in the race. But obviously I am not 100 per cent so fighting for the stage on Friday was not really an option.

Although I have been chasing a stage win, this was not one of the ones I was originally looking at. I was more thinking about Saturday, but having seen the finish it would normally have been a really good one for me.

However I wasn’t feeling right. I knew with about 40 kilometres to go that I should just take it easy and not kill myself, but instead give me a chance to recover. I finally slipped back just before 10 kilometres to go.

Shortage of water bottles

I actually think there will be a real shortage of water bottles after the Tour de France finishes this year. Every team is just getting through so many . . . I think it’s probably 150 or 200 bottles each day.

You’ve got to stay hydrated but it’s really tough for everyone taking on so much fluids. I couldn’t really eat on the bike today as my stomach was just so full of water. We have sugar in the energy drinks but it is not the same for the body as solid food.

The Tour de France is always testing but this heat just makes it even more so.

Friday was a good day for another rider on the team, the Australian Nathan Haas. He got into the day’s break and then attacked towards the end. While he was caught by the others, and they in turn were caught by the bunch, it was great to see.

He had really bad stomach problems just after the start of the Tour. Because of that, he was not able to eat properly and wasn’t getting the calories he needed. He was suffering through each stage as a result.

Things worked out for him, though; there was quite a straightforward run of stages leading up to the team time trial, and then he had that plus the rest day to recover. I think if it happened in the mountains he would never have made it through.

Nathan is a really good friend of mine, he is always my room-mate at races. So to see him in the breakaway made me incredibly proud. Then, even more so when he went on the attack. It’s his first-ever Tour and he was away with an incredibly strong group of riders, attacking them.

Focused

Finally, some people are looking at the way Chris Froome has been riding and the lead he has and they are saying that the race is over.

I think it is hard to say if that is really the case. You have seen guys crack all over the place in the first week, and when people crack in this heat they lose three, four minutes at a time.

It is not just a case of somebody blowing up and losing just 30 seconds. It is very real that he could have a bad day . . . maybe miss out on getting a bottle one day and not getting to drink for half an hour. If so, his race could be done.

It takes complete concentration to be good in this heat, even more so than normal.

There is also a question of how he handles it. Although Chris races as a Briton, he grew up in Kenya. A big competitor is Nairo Quintana, who is from Colombia. Quintana might potentially adapt better to the temperatures and, if so, that could make a difference.

It is going to be interesting. I just hope that the heat doesn’t affect the aggressive nature of the race. It could put the brakes on everybody and just make it a slow-motion grind to the line rather than attacks. But we will see how it goes.

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