‘There was a massive relief when I won. It was such an incredible moment.’

Irish stage-winner Dan Martin reflects on his victory in his Tour de France diary

Dan Martin  celebrates after winning stage nine of the Tour de France to Bagneres-de-Bigorre yesterday. Photograph:  Bryn Lennon/Getty Images.

Dan Martin celebrates after winning stage nine of the Tour de France to Bagneres-de-Bigorre yesterday. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images.

 

Saturday, stage eight, Castres to Ax 3 Domaines (195 km)
Day one in the big mountains and it was a bit of a shock to the system.

The first stage with big climbs can affect many riders as you are not used to going uphill after a week on the flat. I felt really good on the first big climb, the Col de Pailheres, but then I had a really bad moment at the bottom of the final ascent, the Ax 3 Domaines.

After about a kilometre I found myself with my Garmin Sharp team-mate Andrew Talansky and we were both distanced.

I stayed with him to the top pacing him. I think I could have otherwise gone a little bit faster, but the deal beforehand was that if I had the legs to win the stage, I could do my own thing. Otherwise, the team wanted Andrew to try to get the white jersey as best young rider, and for me to help him do that.

Things didn’t work out in that regard as we both felt a bit empty on that last climb. My legs did come around before the top, though, and I was able to set a good tempo from there. I ended up 15th, two minutes and 34 seconds behind a hugely impressive Chris Froome.

We’ve got the second Pyrenean stage on Sunday and it is a hard stage to judge. It is going to be hot again.

Those climbs are a bit shorter and narrower, and the downhills are a bit more dangerous.

Doing five climbs in a row is a different type of race. It is not as explosive and it is last man standing at the end.

Sunday, stage 9, Saint Girons to Bagnères de Bigorre (168.5km)
I felt that it could be a break going to the finish, and that’s what happened; myself and the Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang went clear on the final climb and held off the group behind all the way to the line.

It’s a huge moment for my career to win my first Tour de France stage and I am really, really happy with the result.

The sensation is a bit like how I felt after winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April; a bit of a disbelief; but also a lot of happiness. I was very pleased to be able to share it with people who are like family to me. This team is special.

I told the guys on the team bus before the stage that I thought I could do something. I won the ninth stage in the 2011 Vuelta a España, and also came out on top in the 99th edition of Liège. It was the ninth stage of the Tour and I felt good about it. I feel that nine is my lucky number so there was no problem with motivation.

In addition, I have a connection to the area, seeing my first stage of the Tour near here in 1999 and won the Route du Sud on many of these roads in my first year as a professional in 2008.

We had already pinpointed this one as a stage we could do something in; this was our opportunity to cause some chaos, to make the Tour de France spectacular.

We knew that our strength in depth as a team was good, as far as climbing goes. It was our opportunity. It really made the race hard and we were obliged to put on a show.

We were attacking like crazy from the start. I think that maybe we pissed a lot of people off! We were going for it on the first climb and on the second. We managed to really weaken Sky and weaken a lot of the other teams too.

I don’t know how many moves we were in, but Ryder eventually ended up getting a big breakaway. Chris Froome lost his team-mates with all the pressure and the group of general classification contenders was whittled down even further.

Going on to the last climb, I wasn’t sure how my legs were. The Movistar rider Nairo Quintana attacked. He was brought back, then I countered.

I actually nearly crashed. The group fanned across the road just as I jumped and I just about got through on the right hand side of the road.

I shot through the gap, made it and was clear.

I was joined by Jakob Fuglsang and together we floored it to the top of the climb and then gave it everything on the descent. I was very happy to have him with me to share the work, but it was hard.

The last 25km were horrible. My legs were hurting so much. I was actually praying to get caught, as I just wanted the pain to be over.

Luckily it was a little bit downhill and the wind was kind, so we managed to make it to the finish.

I know I am fast, so was confident. I knew you had to be into the last corner first to win and jumped just before it, curved around the bend and went flat out to the line.

I had been feeling nervous and there was a massive relief when I won.

It was such an incredible moment.

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