Dan Martin eyes happy return to Pyrenees

Dan Martin is eyeing up the next three stages of the Tour de France as potential days where he could make a real statement of intent.

Dan Martin eyes happy return to Pyrenees

The Irishman is well-poised in 10th place overall going into stage seven today for what is the first of three big journeys through the Pyrenees.

By Monday’s rest day a definite order to the general classification will take shape and Martin intends to be there.

He’s currently over five minutes behind race leader, and Wednesday’s stage winner Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), but he is expected to fade away today or tomorrow and the race for the yellow jersey will really commence.

“The Pyrenees have been a happy hunting ground for me in the past,” said Martin confidently in a clear reference to his one and only Tour stage win in Bagneres de Bigorre in 2013.

On Wednesday’s medium mountain stage, he battled with the best climbers like two-time champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and even out-kicked his rivals at the line to take fifth place.

That showed Martin is somewhere where he needs to be, but he’s not getting too carried away.

“I’m happy to survive it. The first mountains and the heat came as a bit of a shock. I think it did for everyone. The race seems to be very strange but it’s what I called on Wednesday, when I said we would see the GC teams have a standoff. I’m happy to have gotten through it,” he added.

Yesterday, on the 190-kilometre stage to Montauban Martin was 33rd across the line and remains 10th overall, 5:17 behind Van Avermaet. He was in the same time as all of his rivals.

Once again, it was a day for the sprinters, and once again it was the Manx missile Mark Cavendish who launched his sprint at just the right time to claim his third stage win of the race. He sprinted in at the head of the field after coming around Martin’s teammate Marcel Kittel in the furious dash to the line to take his career Tour stage win tally to 29.

He now moves into second place in the all-time stage winners list, having drawn level with Bernard Hinault’s 28 wins after winning Monday’s third stage.

It’s a truly remarkable record given the quality of the sprinters in the field this year, and his run of results reaches back to 2009.

Between the three-year period from 2009 to 2011, he won 16 stages of the race, followed by three in 2012, two in 2013, none in 2014, when he pulled out before stage 2, and just one last year.

But now, having been reunited with key lead-out man Mark Renshaw at Dimension Data, and having been preparing on the track for the Rio Olympics, he has clearly found his sprinting legs again.

One man who would have been hoping to challenge Cavendish yesterday was Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) but he was the last man home on a day he lost 6:26 down.

It’s going to be a hard few days ahead for him as he is still recovering from the nasty crash injuries he sustained in last Saturday’s stage one bunch sprint crash.

Today’s stage takes the riders 162 kilometres from L’Isle Jourdain to Lac de Payolle and with a category one climb less than 10 kilometres before the finish, it promises to be a fascinating battle.

See Results in Digest: Page 15

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