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Nine lives on Cat Mountain: Martin survives harrowing stage

CHAMBÉRY, France (VN) — Dan Martin couldn’t believe his luck at the Tour de France. He just couldn’t decide if it was good luck or bad.

The 30-year-old Quick-Step rider crashed two times, avoided another one, and survived a harrowing stage 9 that he believes he could have won, but also knows he could have been sent packing home.

Here’s what happened on the descent of Mont du Chat: Martin was swept off his bike by the crashing Richie Porte (BMC) in a horrific high-speed crash, but someone still managed to finish ninth, and kept his podium hopes alive.

On a day when Porte, Geraint Thomas (Sky), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Arnaud Démare (FDJ) are all out of the race, Martin rolls on to fight another day.

“Richie just lost it on one corner,” Martin said. “It was so slippery. I guess the organisers got what they wanted. Richie locked up his back wheel, went straight into the grass, wiped out, and his bike just collected me.

“I had nowhere to go,” he added. “I was very, very lucky to come off as lightly as I did.”

Everyone knew the 181.5km climb packed with three hors-categorie climbs was going to be a make-or-break day. Starting fourth overall, it was an ideal day for Martin to win a stage and solidify his GC position. Instead, he crashed twice, missed out on the victory, and slipped to sixth, now at 1:44 back.

Yet as he cooled down on the rollers after the stage, Martin shook his head in disbelief that he made it to the finish line.

“I was very lucky,” he said. “In that first crash with Geraint [Thomas], his bike hit my handlebars, and I got through.

“On Mont du Chat, I went from sitting pretty, to being content and job-done almost, to — whew! — yeah, then Richie went down,” Martin said, shaking his head in disbelief.

Martin didn’t even see Porte flying across the wet pavement, and if he did, he wouldn’t have had time to react. As Porte reeled in pain, Martin was able to remount his bike. His troubles weren’t over yet.

“I got a spare wheel from Mavic, and I didn’t have any brakes,” he said. “I came into the next corner, and I just couldn’t stop. I went straight off the road. The second [crash] wasn’t really much. I was able to get a spare bike from the team, and we got going again.”

Quick-Step sport director Brian Holm said Martin’s double-edge luck means he might have lost a chance to win the stage, but at least he can keep racing.

“Dan is quite a good downhiller. But when Richie comes flying from behind like he did, there was nothing Dan could do. He didn’t even know what hit him,” Holm said. “We think that it cost him a victory. He then had a problem with his bike. It’s a pity, pity, pity. We’ve won three stages. We move on.”

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