VeloNews awards 2017: Dan Martin’s gritty Tour

After Dan Martin placed sixth in the Tour de France, doctors discovered that a stage 9 crash left him with two fractured vertebrae.

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Editor’s note: To close out 2017, we named our 30th annual VeloNews awards in the November/December issue of VeloNews magazine.

Gritty ride of the year: Dan Martin

Narrow tarmac, hardly two riders wide, wound its way down the backside of the Mont du Chat haphazardly, as if its engineers were interested merely in the path of least resistance. (Or as if it was hardly engineered at all.) Corners tightened abruptly; edges fell away precipitously. It would be demanding at the best of times. In the late hours of stage 9 of the Tour de France, it was raining.

The crash felt as inevitable as it was horrific. Richie Porte (BMC Racing) caught the inside of a corner and flipped up and over and into a stone wall, catching Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) in the process. The Irishman flipped over his bars and into the wet pavement. Porte left the race on a backboard; Martin, though, stood and soldiered on.

He couldn’t stand up straight the next morning, he said. He could barely stand on the bike. He was forced to attack because he knew he couldn’t respond to the attacks of others. He spent hours with therapists each day. He was more comfortable on the bike than off, but only in a relative sense. Real comfort, for the 11 remaining stages, was not part of Martin’s world.

In the week after the Tour, doctors discovered two fractured vertebrae they’d missed in initial scans. Martin had finished sixth in cycling’s most important race with a broken back.