Dan Martin jumped back up to sixth overall but conceded precious time to race leader Chris Froome in yesterday’s 17th stage of the Tour de France, the Irishman now trailing by 2:37 with four stages remaining.
Martin moved up one place on General Classification heading into another big day in the Alps today and he knows if he is to make the podium in Paris on Sunday he’ll need to have a huge three days.
The Quick Step Floors man has been one of the stars of this Tour with his never-say-die style of riding winning him legions of followers – and he said he is ready to fight for every last second.
“The war of attrition continues. Everyone has to take time out of Chris. It is going to be war,” Martin said after the stage.
Martin was on the attack in the 183-kilometre journey from La Mure to Serre Chevalier which crested four categorised climbs.
It was on the latter, the HC-ranked Col du Galibier, where his aggression put Team Sky on the offensive as they were protecting the interests of their man in yellow, Froome.
One of their number, the seemingly indefatigable Mihal Kwiatkowski cracked and that left Froome with just Mikel Landa for support.
Together they reeled in Martin’s attacks and towards the stop of the punishingly steep Alpine mountain which was almost 45 kilometres in length and reached 2,642 metres, the Irishman became distanced. “I attacked because I wanted to test my rivals. I didn’t go too deep, but this doesn’t mean I wasn’t tired.
“Actually, everybody’s tired 17 days into the race, so this is turning more into a mental battle. I’m glad we left this stage behind and I got to jump one place in the GC,” he added as to what happened in the final kilometres of the climb.
AG2R La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet also put in a number of searing accelerations on the way up, putting Astana’s Fabio Aru under pressure.
The Italian was one of several riders who lost ground going up and over the climb, with Bardet helping solidify a gap on the ensuing descent.
Up the road, Slovenian Primoz Roglic (Lotto-JumboNL) took the stage honours and the biggest win of his career to date after being out front in various groups for much of the afternoon before embarking on a solo effort with around 35 kilometres to go.
GC contender Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Urán was present and correct in the ‘GC group’ and he was for runner-up on the day with Froome taking third ahead of Bardet.
Aru crossed the line 31 seconds later, slipping off the GC podium.
Martin was seventh across the line, 30 seconds behind Froome, Bardet, Uran and Warren Barguil.
“It’s good to actually feel like a rider again. I don’t even think about crashing anymore,” said Martin.
“Yesterday just wanted to test it out and make it uncomfortable for Sky. The tempo they were riding wasn’t too hard, so I thought maybe Chris is on a bad day, and I’d test him out.
“But at the end of the day Chris doesn’t need to take time out of anybody with the time trial in Marseille on Saturday.
“I thought I’d have a go. In the end, I guess my accelerations maybe put paid to Simon (Yates).
“I’ve jumped a place on GC, and it’s just good to be feeling good again.” As regards how strong Froome looks, Martin suggested he just looks that way.
“He’s got a good poker face, anyone can crack, anyone can have a bad day. It might be his turn tomorrow.
“Yesterday is already in the past and now my focus is on the Col d’Izoard today. The war of attrition will continue there and Disco Dan is ready to dance!”
The other Irish rider in the race, Nicolas Roche was almost 25 minutes down in 53rd and is 37th overall.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved