Tour Diary: I felt I could do well and my team was determined to set me up
It was an opportunity lost due to poor positioning
Dan Martin: I’m feeling confident about my chances of chasing a victory when the race hits the high mountains in the days ahead”
It’s the end of week one of the Tour de France and having gone close to a stage win on two occasions I’m feeling confident about my chances of chasing a victory when the race hits the high mountains in the days ahead.
I took fourth last Monday at the Mur de Huy, and was then second on Saturday’s stage to the Mur de Bretagne, so I know I’m in strong form.
In fact, although I won a stage in 2013, I definitely think I’m going better now than then. I’m probably a kilo lighter now, I am two years stronger, so I am definitely in the right place.
Saturday’s stage was one I felt I could do well in and so my Cannondale-Garmin team was determined to try to set me up.
We expected it to be a lot more hectic at the start with breakaways going. If it looked like a big break was going to get clear I was looking to sneak into it myself as I thought that such a move would go all the way to the finish line.
However a four-man break got away early on so it seemed quite typical. Things got much more interesting and complicated at the bonus sprint. Normally the guys who go for the points there – in other words, the riders such as Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and others who are going for the green jersey competition – take off, sprint it out, and then drift back towards the peloton.
They just slow down and wait for us, basically, out of respect as we let them get on with their sprint. But on Saturday they just continued on after their effort. A couple of guys then grabbed on to the back of those riders and the race ended up with a surprise 17-man breakaway going away with 60km to the finish.
They then kept up a really high tempo that split the peloton on two occasions. Being up at the front was definitely the easiest place to be as there were such tiny little roads, winding in and out of villages, going up and down hills. It was a really beautiful part of France but a real hell in the peloton. We rode strongly in the front and stamped our authority on the race.
Everyone was fighting for position coming onto the final climb. I knew the finish was perfect for me and I was feeling really, really easy on the bike. However, although I was really well placed at the bottom, I got swamped a little bit when they hit the steepest part of the Mur de Bretagne.
I got caught on the right hand side of the barrier and I just couldn’t move up at all. There was nowhere to go – I couldn’t go left as there were three guys on my inside and I couldn’t go right as obviously the barrier was there.
I actually clipped a number of barriers on the way past as I was desperately trying to push people out of the way and get to the front. It was pretty stressful as I knew where I needed to be and I wasn’t there. Unfortunately before I got a clear run at things the French rider Alexis Vuillermoz attacked with about 800m to go. He already had a good lead and while I was finally able to get out and go after him he was too far ahead.
It was an opportunity lost due to poor positioning and being on the wrong side of the group; wrong place, wrong time again. It is disappointing, but I definitely have the legs to try and win a stage in the race. There are going to be other stages that suit me.
We now head into the first rest day on Monday, and with the Pyrenees coming up on Tuesday, we’ll do a long training ride to keep the legs ticking over and to make sure we are not stiff for when we hit the high mountains. I’m feeling confident: my legs are good, I’m very motivated and I’m hoping to do something pretty special. After second and fourth on stages, there is everything to race for.