Outstanding Martin clinches Dauphiné podium on final day
An all-out attack and a superb ride propelled the Irishman to third overall at the end of the race's queen-stage.
Dan Martin isn't just one of the most consistent and aggressive riders in the peloton, but also the epitome of never-give-up, a rider who digs deep for every ounce of energy and who always continues to believe in his chances, even when the odds are against him. This never-say-die attitude netted the 30-year-old some of his biggest career results throughout time, from emphatic Classic victories to exceptional performances in stage races.
Latest result of this impressive haul came Sunday afternoon, in the Criterium du Dauphiné, the seven-decade old stage race which this year staged its 69th edition. On the final leg of the renowned French event, a short but nervous one, jammed with four difficult classified climbs, from Albertville to Plateau de Solaison (115 kilometers), Dan Martin rode superbly, always staying attentive at the front as the stage unfolded and carefully dosing his effort before launching a big attack which at the end of the day took him on the overall podium.
The race was crazy and fast-ridden from kilometer zero, as many of Richie Porte's opponents – the yellow jersey – triggered a flurry of attacks in an attempt to isolate the Australian and put pressure on him. Eventually, Porte was dropped on the penultimate ascent, Col de la Colombière, where Dan made his first move of the day, accelerating from the elite group together with Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).
The trio went in pursuit of Fabio Aru (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who were leading at that moment, but on the descent they were caught by a group also including Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Chris Froome (Team Sky), who eventually reeled in the two men up front on the first slopes of the excruciating Plateau de Solaison (11.3km, 9.2%).
With over seven kilometers remaining until the top of the HC climb, Dan Martin put in a forcing to which only Fuglsang could respond. The two opened a 30-second gap on the chasers, before the Dane took off and went solo all the way to the finish line, where he nabbed both the stage and GC win. A composed Dan rode his own tempo in the closing kilometers, one which helped him have Fuglsang at all times in his sights, and crossed the line only 12 seconds behind the day's victor.
Runner-up on the Dauphiné's queen-stage after he produced his best performance of the week, the Quick-Step Floors rider had an extra reason to smile at the finish, as his valiant effort elevated him to third overall, behind Fuglsang and Porte, but ahead of Froome, Bardet or Valverde. It was Martin's eighth top-3 finish of the season, and his second in the general classification of a World Tour stage race, after the one in Paris-Nice, where he also concluded third overall.
"The pace today was high right from the beginning, so my main goal was to conserve the energy I had until the final climb, where I wanted to make a big attack. I gave it my all out there and at the end of the day I'm happy with my result, but also with how I raced here this week, because I had a different approach than in the past", said Dan Martin, who made a spectacular jump in the standings after having started stage 8 in seventh place, his podium finish helping Quick-Step Floors retain the top position in the World Tour classification.
"All I wanted this week was to race relaxed and not be worried about the result or the time lost in the ITT.
I had no pressure and I really enjoyed this race, even today's stage, which was one of the toughest in my life, but at the same time one of the most fun.
"Now I will do a recon of some of the Tour de France stages, fine-tune my condition for the race and wait with confidence for July to come", concluded the Irishman, who last year cracked the top 10 overall at the Grande Boucle for the first time in his career.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele