Despite the injuries he sustained in the high-speed crash with Richie Porte on Sunday, Dan Martin managed to stay with a small group fighting for the win on the first Pyrenean stage of the Tour de France.
The Côte de Capvern, Col des Ares, Col de Menté, Port de Balès, Col de Peyresourde and Peyragudes were the six classified climbs making up the menu of Thursday’s enthralling stage 12, one which had two Quick-Step Floors riders feature in the original breakaway that formed 20 kilometres from the start in Pau: Jack Bauer and Marcel Kittel, winner of five stages and leader of the points classification.
Joining them were ten other riders and their work had the gap edge out to five minutes, before the team of the yellow jersey took the front of the peloton and began setting the pace on the roads leading to the day’s first ascent. Shortly after, the intermediate sprint came up and Marcel Kittel added 17 points to his already commanding lead in the green jersey competition.
On the slopes of the Hors Catégorie Port de Balès, a 11.7km-long climb which celebrated a decade since its Tour de France debut, the steep gradients took their toll and splintered the group. Behind, the pack was being trimmed under the impetus of Team Sky, only 30 riders making the cut over the top of Balès and onto the descent to Peyresourde.
Dan Martin was there and despite riding with discomfort on his back as consequence of Sunday’s crash, the 30-year-old put in an admirable display throughout the day, before deciding to try to jump clear on Peyragudes, with 300 metres to go, when attacks flew from the favourites’ group.
Romain Bardet (AG2R) was the one who won, but Martin was another rider to catch the eye, as he defied the pain and placed sixth, a super impressive result considering he couldn’t ride at his very best.
“I felt terrible in the first 50 kilometres of the stage and I thought I will lose half an hour, as I had a really bad day and nothing in the legs, but fortunately I got through this very difficult stage without conceding too much time. I suffered all day long due to that pain I have since crashing on the roads to Chambery, so that’s why I rode conservatively and can say I am really happy with my result”, explained Martin.
“The stage was brutal and everyone was exhausted at the finish. I couldn’t get out of the saddle properly, so that’s why I rode as hard as I could to the line, which never seemed to arrive. Normally, it would have been a great finish for me, but wasn’t the case, as the circumstances were different.”
“But, as I said, I’m happy with the outcome and with the fine job of the team, the boys believe in me 100% and it’s really great to see that!
“I will take it day by day now and hopefully I will make a full recovery before we hit the Alps next week”, concluded the Irishman, who’ll draw confidence from today’s performance ahead of the next Pyrenean stage, a short but explosive one, between Saint-Girons and Foix (101 kilometres).