An outstanding all-out attacking performance saw Dan Martin clinch third place on the podium at the Criterium du Dauphiné which was won by Jakob Fuglsang of Astana.
Martin isn’t just one of the most consistent and aggressive riders in the peloton, but the Irishman is the epitome of never-give-up, a rider who digs deep for every ounce of energy and always continues to believe in his chances, even when the odds are stacked against him. This never-say-die attitude netted the 30-year-old some of his biggest career results to date, from emphatic Classic victories to exceptional performances in stage races.
The seven-decade old Dauphiné stage race, which this year staged its 69th edition, saw a short but nervous final day jammed with four difficult classified climbs, from Albertville to Plateau de Solaison (115 kilometres), Dan Martin rode superbly, always staying attentive at the front as the stage unfolded and carefully launching a big attack which at the end of the day took him on to the podium.
The race was crazy and fast-ridden from the very beginning, as many of the yellow jersey wearer, Richie Porte’s opponents, triggered a flurry of attacks in an attempt to isolate the Australian. Finally, however, their efforts bore success when Porte was dropped on the penultimate ascent, Col de la Colombière. Martin made his first move of the day here, 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 the time, but on the descent they were caught by a group which included big-hitters Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Chris Froome (Team Sky). The two men up front were eventually reeled in on the first slopes of the excruciating Plateau de Solaison (11.3km, 9.2%).
With over seven kilometres left to the top of the Haute Categorie climb, Dan Martin put in a huge effort, with Fuglsang being the only rider capable of responding to the Irish rider. The two opened a 30-second gap on the chasers, before the Dane took off and went solo all the way to the finishing line, where he took both the stage and GC win. A composed Martin rode at his own tempo in the closing kilometres, having Fuglsang in his sights at all times, and the Irishman crossed the line only 12 seconds behind the day’s stage winner.
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, and ahead of Froome, Bardet and 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 Paris-Nice, where he also finished 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.