Martin ‘proud’ of podium finish as Thomas tightens grip on yellow
Chris Froome committed to helping his team-mate secure victory in Paris
UAE Team Emirates rider Daniel Martin in action during the 17th stage of the the Tour de France over 65km between Bagneres de Luchon and Saint Lary Soulan col du Portet. Photograph: Kim Ludbrook/EPA
Dan Martin had a superb showing on stage 17 of the Tour de France, being in the hunt for the stage win all the way to the line and finally finishing second. First home was Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who attacked with Martin at the start of the final climb and then opened a gap over him after several kilometres.
Martin kept the Colombian within range for a long time, but ultimately finished 28 seconds back at the finish line. It was his second-best finish in the race after his victory on stage six.
“I am proud of how I have done,” he said after the stage. “It is a pity that I lost time with that crash and the puncture. Take that two and a half minutes or so off and it could be a very different story in the last week. But then again you can never look back.”
Behind Quintana and Martin, the general classification battle raged on the final ascent to Saint Lary-Soulan/Col du Portet. The Tour’s shortest road stage was just 65 kilometres in length and the big guns were expected to go all out in the battle for the yellow jersey.
That’s precisely what happened; the riders in third and fourth overall, Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) launched moves on the tough final climb. While Froome went with Roglic when the Slovenian surged lower down that ascent, he was unable to go with a later attack by Dumoulin near the top.
The four-time Tour champion cracked dramatically, while his team-mate Geraint Thomas went with the two others, then jumped clear of them before the line. In netting third behind Quintana and Martin, Thomas tightened his hold on yellow. He is now one minute 59 seconds ahead of Dumoulin, while Froome slips to third overall, two minutes 31 back.
Froome said he is fully committing to helping his team-mate win the race. “It was a tough day, an intense day, but I’ve got no regrets,” he said. “G [Thomas] has ridden such an amazing race, he deserves to be in yellow and fingers crossed he holds it now until Paris.
“I just didn’t have the legs in the final. I think he’s got an almost two-minute lead on Dumoulin, which is a pretty comfortable buffer. He looks pretty strong and I imagine he’ll be able to finish it off. We just need to look after him now for these next few days.”
Some felt that Froome would try to move closer to yellow, then swoop past Thomas in Saturday’s time trial. But losing time has put that out of reach.
“That’s professional cycling, that’s what a team is all about,” said Froome, speaking about his commitment to his team-mate. “I’m happy just to be in the position I’m in. I’ve won the last three Grand Tours I’ve done now. It’s certainly been a tough build-up for me but I’ll still fight for the podium and obviously we want to see G up there in yellow.”
As for Martin, his move saw him leave the other general classification riders behind, aside from Quintana. The latter moves from eighth to third overall. Martin also rises in the overall standings, going from 10th to ninth.
“I am just proud of how I managed to keep consistency over the three weeks, to show it and to still be strong in this third week,” he said. “To win a stage in the first week and then almost win a stage in the last week with a crash in the middle shows that I can handle three weeks and hard days in the Tour de France.”
The shortness of the stage plus Martin’s explosive style meant that it was always likely to suit him. He was motivated for it, and was in the right physical condition.
“I knew I had good legs. I knew I felt good,” he said. “I knew my tempo was good. But it was just a case of riding my own rhythm. It was literally a time trial. If somebody caught me, I wasn’t even going to try to hold their wheel. I was just going to hold my tempo to the top.
“Obviously [the goal was to] try to keep Nairo within sprinting distance. But I had a bad kilometre between four and three to go. He just pulled a bit more of a gap out, and I couldn’t close it then.”
Martin is now six minutes 33 seconds off the yellow jersey. The rider ahead of him, Romain Bardet, has previously finished second and third overall in the Tour and had a bad day on Wednesday. He cracked on the final climb and finished back in 13th place, slipping three places to eighth overall. He is one minute 20 seconds ahead of Martin and overtaking him may well be a goal for the Irish rider on Friday’s final mountain stage.