PEYRAGUDES, France (VN) — Dan Martin’s legs typically pack an explosive punch — hence why the Irishman has thrived on the WorldTour’s steepest pitches of road.
So as the group of Tour de France contenders headed toward the final 250 meters of Thursday’s stage 12, which finished with a grueling 20-percent pitch, the Quick-Step climber appeared to be in the best position to win. It was not meant to be.
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Martin briefly surged toward the front but was quickly swarmed by Fabio Aru (Astana), Rigoberto Uràn (Cannondale-Drapac) and eventual winner Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale). Martin finished in sixth place, 13 seconds behind Bardet.
“You could see I wasn’t really myself. I can’t really get out of the saddle properly, I can’t really sprint properly,” Martin said. “It definitely hindered me in the last 400 meters. I just rode as hard as I could all the way to the finish and it never seemed to arrive.”
Since the crash, which occurred when BMC’s Richie Porte flew across the road and into Martin’s bicycle, he has pedaled on with serious back pain, he said. He has spent ample time with his Quick-Step team’s physiotherapist in an attempt to ease the discomfort.
The effort has not been easy. During the opening kilometers of Thursday’s monster 214km stage from Pau to Peyragudes, Martin assumed he would be dropped when the peloton reached the climbs. The stage hit six categorized climbs including Port de Bales, Col de Peyresourde, and Peyragudes.
“I expected to lose half an hour,” Martin said. “I was surprised when my body got going and the legs came around. I didn’t lose time and was actually able to gain time.”
Indeed, Martin hung strong as the lead group gradually shrunk under Team Sky’s pressure. Martin said he suffered on the final climbs. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) were all dropped as Sky upped the pace over the Peyresourde and Peyragudes.
“Everybody was really on empty at the end of a six-hour stage. It was such a brutal stage,” Martin said. “We’ve done a hell of a lot of kilometers over these 12 days.”
The effort bumped Martin up from sixth to fifth in GC, where he now sits 1:41 behind Fabio Aru. The extra placing is somewhat bittersweet however, since Martin lost 1:15 in the pileup with Porte.
Martin said the teammates’ efforts to keep him in contention — and his team’s efforts to ease his pain off of the bike — have given him motivation to aim for the podium in Paris. If he can leapfrog just two more riders, he will achieve that goal.
“I’m not going to let that little crash defeat me,” Martin said.