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Daniel Martínez, however, says the team is still racing to win.
“We want to win the race, we’re not satisfied [with the podium],” Martínez said. “The objective is to win the race. That’s why we are here. If later we hit the podium, that’s fine, but we’ve come here to win.”
The Colombian all-rounder fell ill in the Tour’s first week, and lost all hope of playing a role in the GC despite riding into the top-10 after La La Super Planche des Belles Filles.
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Martínez confirmed he’s back in top shape after taking antibiotics for several days to step into the helper role Tuesday in the first of three stages in the Pyrénées.
He rode into the winning breakaway, and despite being unable to challenge for the stage win, he latched on with Thomas and helped him maintain contact with yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard and second-place Tadej Pogačar.
Thomas defended third, and goes into Wednesday’s short but explosive stage intent on at least staying there.
“I am here to help Thomas in whatever it takes,” Martínez said. “There are only a few stages left, and our objective is to do things as well as possible with him, that he remains well positioned among the favorites in the race.”
Ineos Grenadiers riders Adam Yates and Tom Pidcock both ceded ground in Tuesday’s attack-riddled stage 16, but both remain in the top-10 overall.
With both Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates short-handed going into the final stages, Ineos Grenadiers retains all eight of its original starters.
With Martínez back in decent health, the team is looking for a moment to play its numerical advantage.
“The two at the top of the leaderboard are very strong, so we’ll have to look at it,” Martínez said. “We have to measure our efforts and not try to follow them because they are very explosive. Luckily, Thomas also has a strong team to support him. He has all of us and we hope to be up to the job this week to achieve the objective.”
So far, Thomas has been gauging his efforts to stay close to Vingegaard and Pogačar, while counting on his strong time trial skills to defend the podium in Saturday’s test against the clock.
For Martínez, the final week of the Tour is all about who has the best legs.
“The most important thing at this point of the race is who has the legs, and less so the route,” he said. “The strongest will be the ones going up the road. What counts now are the legs. I feel good right now, and that’s good news, and I’ll give everything to help Thomas.”