Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) was slumped in 45th place overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné before the mountains came into focus, but after three stages in which he has graced every step of the podium, he’s now setting his sights on the final podium itself. It would be his third in as many years.
This year's Critérium du Dauphiné has been dominated by Team Sky, Martin, for the third day in a row, was the rider who broke the mold and kicked off hostilities on the final climb to La Rosière during stage 6 on Saturday. He linked up with teammate Valerio Conti, who’d been in the break, and even if the duo couldn’t make that move stick, Martin nevertheless then rode away from much of the field in the company of race leader Geraint Thomas, Romain Bardet, and Adam Yates.
Up front Pello Bilbao won the stage from the break, while Thomas kicked away in sight of the line to take a couple more seconds, with Martin finishing third, with the rest of the other overall contenders a good minute back.
"Today (Saturday) was similar to yesterday. I sort of saw guys on the limit. With Valerio up front I wanted to take advantage of that, so I managed to ride across to him and he did great job to help me a bit, but obviously the race started a bit behind and Geraint and Romain came behind and we had group of four to the finish,” Martin told Cyclingnews in La Rosière.
"I was a little bit gutted we couldn’t catch Bilbao. I also had the general classification in the back of my mind. I knew it was a really hard day, everyone was very tired and I thought I’d take advantage to really try and get some time back on GC. I don’t know if everyone was playing a bit of poker in the last 5km there, or if everyone’s really tired but yeah, we were riding but not super hard. That’s why we didn’t catch Bilbao. That’s how it goes. Congrats to Bilbao and I’m really happy with how I’m going."
Enjoying the aggressive racing
Twenty-four hours earlier, Martin had opened up about his difficult start to life at UAE Team Emirates, during which he admitted to putting too much pressure on himself and losing sight of his enjoyment of bike racing. He seems a rider reborn at the Dauphiné.
"Today I had the same feeling as the last few days – just really enjoying racing," he said. "I love this race. With these short stages it’s nice to be able to race so aggressively. I’m just really enjoying my racing now, and that shows in the results I think."
The end result is that Martin, who was handicapped by a team time trial in which a relatively inexperienced UAE squad finished second last, has shot up the overall standings. He now lies fourth overall with one stage remaining. He trails a commanding-looking Thomas by 2:30 away, but third-placed Bardet is 29 seconds away, and second-placed Yates is 1:01 ahead.
Running 136 kilometres from Moutiers to Saint-Gervais, and taking in the Cormet de Roselend, Cold des Saisies, and the Côte des Amerands before the final first-category climb of Le Bettex, it’s another route tailor-made for the kind of aggression Martin thrives on.
"I was 11th this morning, and 20th the day before, so if we keep going that fashion…" Martin joked when asked about his ambitions for the final day.
"I think it’s going to very difficult to beat Geraint, he has a big gap. But that last climb is really hard. Especially the foot of it the Amerands. We all know the climb. It’s going to be an interesting day.
"I was on the podium the last two years. I’m just going to try and go for the stage and the GC will take care of itself."
Cyclingnews Films' second production CRESCENDO is available to buy or rent on Vimeo.