Dan Martin’s hopes of a podium finish at the Tour de France were dealt a significant blow on today’s sixteenth stage of the race from Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isère as he lost time to the other GC contenders after being left isolated in the front group.
The Irish rider was caught on the wrong side of a split in the lead group which happened with sixteen kilometres remaining. As the race turned direction, the riders faced crosswinds and this was the cue for Team Sky to go to the front and put the hammer down.
This pressure reduced the lead group to just 28 riders, with Chris Froome (Team Sky), Fabio Aru (Astana), Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), Mikel Landa (Team Sky), Simon Yates (ORICA-Scott) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) all on the right side of the split. Sensing Martin’s absence, the other GC contenders all took turns at the front to ensure that Martin did not get back on.
Adding to Martin’s difficulties was the lack of support from his Quick Step Floors’ team-mates. As green jersey wearer Marcel Kittel struggled behind, three of the Quick Step Floors riders were accompanying Kittel to the line while Martin was left isolated.
In the end, Martin lost 51 seconds to the other GC contenders. He now sits 2’03” behind Froome. He has slipped to 7th place with Landa and Yates moving up to 5th and 6th respectively.
“I was a bit sick yesterday, like the other guys and the team really suffered today,” said Martin. “I was hoping to be protected but in the end there was only Gianluca Brambilla and Jack Bauer with me, they did an incredible job all day, Jack was huge at the end.
“I was not in a bad position, I think I probably did not have legs and strength with that wind. We’ve worked really hard to be in this position but it’s not over.”
The stage victory went to Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) who narrowly beat Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and John Degenkolb (Trek – Segafredo). Matthews narrowed Kittel’s lead in the green jersey competition to just 29 points.
The race moves into the Alps tomorrow as the riders face the Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier on the 183-kilometre stage from La Mure to Serre-Chevalier.