Tour de France: Martin concludes the Pyrenees on a high
The Irishman rode an intelligent and brave race on Friday afternoon, cementing his place in the top 10 overall.
Short and chaotic stage at the Tour de France? Then you can be sure Dan Martin will be among those taking center stage with his aggressive racing, searing attacks and perseverance, traits highlighted on the difficult stage 13, at 101 kilometers one of the shortest in recent years, with three categorised climbs – Col de Latrape, Col d'Agnes and Mur de Péguère – jammed between the start and the finish.
Philippe Gilbert and Marcel Kittel were the first Quick-Step Floors riders to make a move early on the day, with the Belgian booking a place in the escape and the 29-year-old German going fifth through the intermediate sprint, making sure he didn't concede any important points to his opponents in the green jersey competition. Philippe led the way onto the first slopes of Latrape, but once the bunch reacted and the GC men accelerated, the breakaway came to an end.
Eventually, four men slipped away and built a 2:40-gap over the yellow jersey group, which included Dan Martin. Sensing his place in the general classification was put under threat by the likes of Mikel Landa (Team Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), but also wanting to prevent any attacks, the Irishman moved to the front of the chasing group and upped the tempo, his forcing shaving off 20 seconds of the leaders' advantage and dropping George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) on the steep gradients of Mur de Péguère, which kicked out to 18%.
On the long descent, Dan tried to make the difference and put in several charges, but his rivals marked these moves, until inside the final ten kilometers, when another daring surge of the 30-year-old on the twisting roads to Foix saw him put some daylight between him and the other favourites. Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) joined Dan and the duo concluded the stage won by Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) nine seconds ahead of the chasers.
"It was an unbelievable stage, with everyone attacking from the start and going hard on the climbs. The riders are more aggressive this year and that makes the race more fun. I wanted to put everyone else in the red to stop them from attacking. If it would have been a start-and-stop race, that wouldn't have been ok for me. I felt a lot better than yesterday, things are going into the right direction, but I'm still not at 100%. On the other hand, I'm closer to yellow than I was before the Pyrenees, so that makes me happy. Hopefully, I'll continue to improve physically, get through the next days and be there in the Alps", said Dan, who now trails overall leader Fabio Aru (Astana) by only 1:32.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele