7 reasons Dan Martin’s chances of Tour podium aren’t over

Posted on: July 16th, 2018

Dan Martin has already lost time at the Tour de France. And while he faces an uphill battle to get that time back, there are good reasons to be hopeful.

 

Dan Martin chances of Tour podium aren’t over

 

OK, so he’s through the first nine days. And he’s got the opening week stage win he wanted.

But Dan Martin is still some way off the other overall contenders in the Tour de France general classification.

Losing time in the TTT was followed by a further time loss after a late crash on stage 8.

He rebounded to ride very well on Sunday’s cobbled stage; terrain that doesn’t normally suit him.

The reality is that Dan Martin came into this race looking to improve on his career best of 6th last year. The podium is the ultimate aim; or as close as possible.

If he is to achieve that, he needs to put time into his rivals in the mountains. But we think he can do it, here’s six reasons why:

 

Attitude

When Martin went to QuickStep three years ago for two seasons he was joining a Belgian hit squad. The team’s reputation and appetite for success is unrivalled.

And even the Irishman commented that they went into every race believing they could win and trying to win.

That environment seemed to bring out a new confidence in him; almost a swagger.

And his time there coincided with the best period of consistency in his career. One interesting feature was the number of times he staged daring attacks on the final stages of races only to be rewarded by moving onto the final podium.

That confidence seems to have stayed with him. While always an uber talented bike rider, and one never afraid to race; recent years seem to have brought a greater inner belief.

He needs that now. And when he reaches for it, we think he’ll find it over the next two weeks and it will be of huge benefit to him.

 

His form

Martin has given his lots of entertainment down the years; winning some of the world’s biggest bike races.

But after moving from QuickStep to UAE Team Emirates over the winter, his results stalled.

Abandoning Paris-Nice was followed by an underwhelming hilly classics campaign, where he normally excels.

There followed a 10th place in the Tour de Romandie; a solid result but run of the mill for a rider with Martin’s palmares.

It began to seem like the team move just might be going pear-shaped. Talk that Fabio Aru may ride the Tour in the same line-up as him didn’t help.

But then came the Dauphine; Martin stringing together the consistency of old over the last four stages.  He won one and took 4th overall.

Going into this Tour he looked in great form and his win on Mûr de Bretagne on last week’s stage 6 confirmed that outlook.

Martin attacked with more than 1km to go. Riding up a wall of a climb he spent almost the whole attack sprinting out of the saddle.

He was going forward while some of the main favourites lost time; modest losses, but losses nonetheless.

Stickybottle can’t quite remember even Dan Martin producing a kick as spectacular and powerful as last Thursday.

His winning move in Liege in 2013 and his identical move 12 months later when he picked his own pockets by crashing on the last corner were similar.

They were probably of higher quality in that they came at the very end of the longest and hardest of one day races pro cycling has to offer.

But for sheer explosive and powerful climbing; his attack last week just may have been his best ever.

And that makes the upcoming mountains potentially very exciting from an Irish perspective.

 

The gaps to the others

Yes; giving any time away to the top men in the Tour de France is not good. And Martin is some way off many of the general classification favourites.

Of the GC men, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) is best placed; 2nd overall and 43 seconds down on yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).

Here’s the list of general classification men with the time advantage they have on Dan Martin after each name: Thomas (2:40), Valverde (1:52), Fuglsang (1:50), Froome (1:41), Yates (1:41), Landa (1:41), Nibali (1:35), Roglic (1:26), Dumoulin (1:20), Bardet (51), Quintana (33), Uran (30).

Dan Martin is lowest placed of all of them; last man in the 13-man virtual general classification containing only those in with a shout of the podium.

But that means he is the most likely of all of them to be given some leeway to get up the road.

If, for example, the attacks are coming thick and fast on the first summit finishes, a surge by Martin may be the one that tired bodies feel they don’t need to react to.

And taking 30 or 40 seconds on a stage – though very, very hard at this level – might just be more possible because, for now, he poses the least threat to all of them.

In the second week of this race, before riders start defending their top 10 general classification positions, the time he has lost may be an asset as he chases a second stage victory and any time gain that may come with it.

 

His team

Having been given just one domestique last year, Martin now has a team riding exclusively for him.

Alexander Kristoff is still hunting for a stage win with UAE Team Emirates. But the team’s primary objective is Dan Martin’s general classification.

And having already won a stage; the team’s best chances of further success in that regard are with the Irishman rather than Kristoff.

There is some climbing talent in the team. And one would think Darwin Atapuma alone will offer more support to Martin than anything he got at QuickStep.

It is very hard to assess in advance how much benefit the team will be to him.

But having done so well on his own the last two years; having the full support a team that  contains some riders who can climb definitely puts him in a better position for  the remainder of the race.

It will be particular important today, for example, for Martin to know Atapuma is there to assist on the first climbs of the race as the Irish rider tests himself after his crash and Sunday’s stage into Roubaix.

 

Rival team politics

At the same time as Martin has added team resources; some of the other teams have several men in the running for the general classification.

Team Sky, for example, have both Thomas and Froome. And if the latter is to win his fifth Tour, Thomas will very likely be called into his service at some point.

It means if the third week doesn’t take care of Thomas for a shot at the top 10, team duties probably will.

Over at Movistar there’s a similar, even more complex, situation.

Valverde, Landa and Quintana won’t all be permitted to ride for themselves for the whole race.

And when a decision is taken to back one over the others; those who lose out will very likely slip down the standings.

That will hopefully benefit Dan Martin in seeing him overtake those forced into the domestique role.

 

Nothing to lose

Finding himself down overall and having won a stage; Dan Martin can afford to take chances.

He has nothing to lose. And he is a rider who often gets his best results when he puts it all on the line in glory or die efforts.

His two monument wins, for example, were both captured with late, high risk, attacks.

The fact he has won a Dauphine stage and now taken a Tour stage means the pressure is off.

His form and his position in the general classification are a recipe for taking risks in the stages ahead.

This year’s Tour, despite Richie Porte’s exit, is one with a large number of riders who believe they can finish on the podium.

That can at times lead to guarded racing. And if that was the case this time around, a disruptive Dan Martin willing to throw caution to the wind may be rewarded.

Aiming for the Tour de France general classification, and basing an entire season around that goal, can sometimes prove a straightjacket for riders; often dulling the potency of those whose stock in trade is usually aggression.

But because Dan Martin has lost time already, that won’t be a concern for him; he has no position to defend and therefore nothing to be cautious about.

 

Key stages

While he has suffered time losses in the TTT already, the remaining TT, an individual one, is one Dan Martin should fear less than he usually would.

If the test was long and flat his time losses may mount. However, the test on the penultimate day is undulating all the way.

And towards the end of the 31km race against the clock into Espelette there is a short and brutally steep climb.

Time trials are not Dan Martin’s favoured terrain. And if he must do them, he prefers the uphill variety.

While this one is far from a mountain TT, it does feature some climbing.

In short; it’s a test that represents much less a banana skin for him that Tour TTs normally do.

The most unusual day of the race comes is the 65km stage 17 from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan.

Road stages as short as this are unheard of. And while the riders face just 65km, it’s almost all climbing.

There are two cat 1 climbs, the first beginning on the start line. And it concludes on a HC ascent.

It looks like a day tailor made for an attacking climber like Dan Martin.

 

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