The 31-year-old Irishman jumped away from the overall contenders near the summit of the category 1 Col de la Colombière on Tuesday, hoping to carry an advantage over the top and onto the descent toward the finish. Forging into a strong headwind, Martin was unable to open up much of a gap to the pack, with Sky setting a hard tempo at the head of affairs. The GC group caught back up to him at the summit, and Martin continued on with them to finish on the same time as Chris Froome (Sky) and a select few other GC hopefuls.
Nonetheless, the way Martin saw things, it was at least worth a shot.
“The day after the rest day, no one is ever sure how they are,” he pointed out after the stage. “The wearing-down on us has just begun.”
The move was a particularly good sign for the Irishman and his squad considering the hard fall he took in stage 8. Two days after he powered to his second career Tour de France stage victory atop the Mûr de Bretagne climb, Martin went down in a pileup on an otherwise innocuous day for the sprinters and rolled across the line with blood running down an arm and bruises on his lower back.
Fortunately for Martin, X-rays came back without any signs of more serious injury. His strong rides to finish with his main GC rivals in the cobbled stage 9 and Tuesday’s mountainous stage 10 suggest that he is not suffering too much lingering pain — or that if he is, he is not letting it slow him down. It wouldn’t be the first time Martin has pushed through pain in pursuit of grand tour glory. At last year’s Tour de France, he fractured two vertebrae in the stage 9 crash that knocked Richie Porte out of the race, but pressed on to finish sixth overall in Paris.
“After his crash Saturday, we were very worried that he would suffer a lot on the pavé. The team supported him and we kept him out of trouble,” said UAE team manager Joxean Fernández Matxin. “The rest day came at a good moment, and now Dan is looking good coming into the mountains. We’ve already won a stage and we believe Dan can do a lot more in this Tour.”
Whether Martin’s stage 10 attempt succeeded or not, it was a clear sign that he intends to be aggressive in the mountains this July.
“My plan from the start was if guys were five, 10, 15 seconds at the top, at the finish, it could be one minute. So I wanted to make it hard and make a little sprint, and that could put people into the red, and maybe get dropped,” he said. “It didn’t do any damage, but I was also in good position for the downhill. What little energy it costs, it was actually good for me.”
Martin won’t have to wait long until he has another shot at leaving his GC rivals behind on the steep stuff. Stage 11 features two hors categorie climbs and ends with a summit finish at La Rosière. Stage 12 closes out with Alpe d’Huez. Expect to see Martin — whose attacking style earned him monument wins at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2013 and Il Lombardia in 2014 — on the move again when the road goes up.
“I always try when I feel I have the legs,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a lot more guys attacking tomorrow.”
Andrew Hood contributed to this report from Le Grand-Bournand, France.