Tour de France 2020

Narrow miss for Martin as Cannondale burns matches

Cannondale-Garmin went deep into red to set up Dan Martin on stage 8, but the 28-year-old had to settle for second behind Alexis Vuillermoz

VANNES, France (VN) — When a breakaway of three, dangerous in its composition and quick to gain an advantage, escaped during the battle for an intermediate sprint in Saturday’s Tour de France stage 8, Cannondale-Garmin lined up without hesitation to reel in the group, putting the full might of its lime-green train into action long before it had planned to. It was a visible, physical vote of confidence in the chances of its Irish puncheur, Dan Martin, on the Mûr-de-Bretagne finishing climb.

It was a bet taken and ultimately lost, with potential implications for Cannondale’s team time trial on Sunday. But Martin’s second place at the finish proved that the confidence was not misplaced, the team said.

“The team rode incredibly, you know, there was such belief in me, and I used that in the final,” Martin told VeloNews after the stage.

He described the tense climb to the line: pinned against the right barriers, waiting for the door to open, only to have eventual stage winner Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R-La Mondiale) fly off the front while it was still firmly shut.

“It was just so dodgy, and I was fighting for my own position, Kristijan [Koren] was still there doing a good job, everybody did their bit. I just couldn’t get out, I was stuck on the right hand side of the barriers,” Martin said. “I was absolutely cruising the whole way up the climb, just looking for the moment they moved left. When they did move left I went and it was just too late. I saw Vuillermoz go, and that was exactly the moment, the right thing to do, and I just couldn’t get out.”

“Dan rode extremely well, he was a bit closed in at that moment, small moments of the race can escape you, you know,” said Cannondale sport director Charly Wegelius after the stage.

Riding early, and hard, in Saturday’s stage could have a negative impact on the team’s time trial on Sunday, and on team leader Andrew Talansky’s run at the overall. Talansky currently sits in 19th, 2:49 down on race leader Chris Froome (Sky). The team already lost one of its strongest riders, Jack Bauer, to a crash and broken hip.

“We are aware that might impact tomorrow’s race, but we really believed in Dan’s chance to win today, and I think that the fact that he came so close proves that we were right to do that,” Wegelius told VeloNews. “You gotta know when to take your chance and today we took it, and tomorrow’s another day.”

Asked if Talansky, whose fight for the overall will be either helped or hindered by the team’s ride Sunday, agreed with the call, Wegelius was unequivocal.

“Absolutely,” he said.