Dan Martin takes Giro d’Italia stage win to complete Grand Tour hat-trick

34-year-old becomes the 102nd in history and third Irish cyclist to complete the triple

Ireland’s Dan Martin celebrates as he crosses the line to win stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia between Canazei and Sega di Ala. Photograph:  Dario Belingheri/AFP via Getty Images

Ireland’s Dan Martin celebrates as he crosses the line to win stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia between Canazei and Sega di Ala. Photograph: Dario Belingheri/AFP via Getty Images

 

With a shake of the head, a broad smile, and then a characteristic fist-pump at the line, Dan Martin took arguably the most dramatic victory of his professional career on Wednesday. The 34-year-old Irish rider raced to Giro d’Italia success atop the gruelling Sega di Ala climb, proving strongest after a mountainous 193 kilometre stage through the Dolomites.

Martin’s achievement was further heightened by the manner in which he won it. He was part of the day’s long-range breakaway, whittled down contenders by driving the pace up the penultimate climb of the Passo San Valentino, then unleashed a big solo move with just over 10 kilometres remaining. The big race favourites were just one minute and ten seconds back at that point.

He rode superbly to fend off a surge behind as the general classification battle exploded and race leader Egan Bernal lost time. Fresher riders tried to bridge up to him but he responded in turn, ramping up his pace approaching the flatter final two kilometres.

Martin said that he deliberately kept something in the tank for the end. “I had information from Nicki [directeur sportif Nicki Sørensen] the whole climb, I knew what was going on,” he said. “I knew from a recon I did of the climb that I just needed to get to 2k to go. So I rode my pace on the steepest section, just rode a good tempo.

“And then I really went full gas with 2½k to go, because I knew that if they were coming close I could kill their morale. It wasn’t until then that I went really, really all in.”

He reached the line 13 seconds ahead of João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) to net the fifth Grand Tour stage win of his career. Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) was 30 seconds back while race leader Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) was a full one minute, 23 seconds behind, having cracked dramatically for seventh.

“I think the shake of the head in the end really says [it all]. I didn’t believe it was happening,” Martin said, his voice wavering with emotion. “I still can’t believe it is happening.”

To put his achievement in some context, he is only the fifth Irish rider to take a stage of the Giro. He joins Shay Elliott [1960], Martin Earley [1986], his uncle Stephen Roche [1987]and Sam Bennett [2018].

Ireland’s Daniel Martin rides during an attack in the Passo di San Valentino pass during stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia. He went on to win the 193km stage between Canazei and Sega di Ala. Photograph: Luca Bettini/AFP via Getty Images
Ireland’s Daniel Martin rides during an attack in the Passo di San Valentino pass during stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia. He went on to win the 193km stage between Canazei and Sega di Ala. Photograph: Luca Bettini/AFP via Getty Images

Significantly, it sees him join a distinguished class of riders in professional cycling. Martin becomes the 102nd rider in the history of the sport to take a stage win in each of the three Grand Tours, a considerable feat. Prior to Wednesday, just two other Irishmen had joined the illustrious club: Elliott had completed the hat-trick at the 1963 Tour de France, while Bennett did so in last year’s Vuelta a España.

Martin is now the third, having previously taken stages in the Tour de France in 2013 and 2018 and the Vuelta a España in 2011 and 2020. “That is what I came here for, to try to win a stage,” he said.

The success relieves the pressure Martin had been under as designated leader of the Israel Cycling Academy team for the event. Starting the race, he had said that a stage win was his biggest objective, but was also regarded as a contender for the overall classification after finishing fourth in last year’s Vuelta a España.

Things initially went to plan but he lost time on stage 11 to Montalcino, slipping from eighth to 18th overall. He also lost time in the cold, wet conditions of Monday’s mountain stage to Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Wednesday’s achievement was his response to that. “I knew that today was one of my last opportunities, and with the extra time I lost on the day before the rest day, it was possible to go in the breakaway. To do it is just incredible.

“We had a plan to put me in the break. Everyone [from the team] worked for that. I didn’t think it was going to happen for a bit with the strong headwind . . . that killed the speed in the breakaway, and it killed our legs. But somehow I managed to hang on.”

Bernal’s unexpected weakness was the first crack in the armour of a rider who previously looked unbeatable. The 2019 Tour de France winner took two stages, most recently Monday’s leg to Cortina d’Ampezzo, but didn’t fare well coming out of Tuesday’s second rest day. Still, he could find a silver lining.

“I am happy because I didn’t lose too much time to Yates on today’s stage, because today was perfect for him,” he said. “And then with [Damiano] Caruso who was second in GC, I lost just a few metres. On a bad day I lost almost nothing to the second [rider] in GC.”

He is now two minutes 21 seconds ahead of Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) and three minutes 23 up on Yates. The rider who was third overall, Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) had an even more difficult day, finishing 21st and slipping to fifth. As for Martin, he improves one place to 11th.

Thursday’s undulating stage to Stradella will be followed by two tough mountain stages and then a flat final day time-trial in Milan. Yates, in particular, is hitting strong form, but Bernal isn’t panicking just yet. “I have some advantage over Yates, so I need to just arrive with some time to Milan,” he said. “If I win the Giro by one second or two minutes, it will be the same for me.”

Dan Martin’s top career victories

Tour de France stage wins (2013 and 2018)
Vuelta a España stage wins (2011 and 2020)
Giro d’Italia stage win (2021)
Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic (2013)
Il Lombardia classic (2014)
General classification Tour de Pologne (2010)
General classification Volta a Catalunya (2013)

Giro d’Italia, Italy

Stage 17, Canazei to Sega di Ala: 1 Daniel Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) 193 kilometres in 4 hours 54 mins 38 secs, 2 J Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at 13 secs, 3 S Yates (Team BikeExchange) at 30 secs, 4 D Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) at 1 min 20 secs, 5 D Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) same time, 6 D Martinez Poveda (Ineos Grenadiers) at 1 min 23 secs

Other Irish: 41 N Roche (Team DSM) at 16 mins 30 secs

Teams: 1 Ineos Grenadiers, 14 hours 49 mins 32 secs, 2 Jumbo-Visma, at 4 mins 20 secs, 3 Astana-Premier Tech, at 16 mins 45 secs

Other: 4 Team DSM, at 16 mins 49 secs, 16 Israel Start-up Nation, at 39 mins 55 secs

General classification after stage 17: 1 Egan Bernal Gomez (Ineos Grenadiers) 71 hours 32 mins 5 secs, 2 D Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) at 2 mins 21 secs, 3 S Yates (Team BikeExchange) at 3 mins 23 secs, 4 A Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) at 6 mins 3 secs, 5 H Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) at 6 mins 9 secs, 6 R Bardet (Team DSM) at 6 mins 31 secs

Irish: 11 D Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) at 13 mins 37 secs; 61 N Roche (Team DSM) at 2 hours 7 mins 39 secs

Points classification: 1 Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 135, 2 D Cimolai (Israel Start-up Nation) 113, 3 F Gaviria Rendon (UAE Team Emirates) 110

Mountains classification: 1 Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën Team) 180, 2 E Bernal Gomez (Ineos Grenadiers) 109, 3 D Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) 79

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