Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) is in the best place that he's ever been going into the final mountain stages of the Tour de France. He slipped down a spot in the overall classification after the final time trial but held onto a top 10 placing.
While a strong stage racer, Martin has never particularly targeted the overall classification at Grand Tours in the past and has only one breached the top 10 in the 2014 Vuelta a Espana. He did not initially have designs for it when he began in Mont Saint-Michel almost three weeks ago. With Paris almost within touching distance, Martin has begun thinking of it.
"I'm really happy with how I'm feeling. I don't think that I've felt this good this late into the Tour. It's the first time that I've done the Tour, and I haven't felt sick; touch wood there's still two days to go," Martin said as he warmed down on a turbo situated just beyond the finish line in Megeve. "It's a new team, and I'm still learning how this team works. Next year, we'll definitely come back better equipped. It's the first time that I've ridden the GC at the Tour de France as well. That's also a learning process.
"It's been a learning year, but the results have been good. I still don't have a stage win so far but overall I'm still in the top 10 so with two days to go maybe I can finish in Paris in the top 10."
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Martin has shown good form at Grand Tours in the past but has often run into trouble on at least one or two days. Thus far, Martin has been able to avoid such trouble at the Tour de France. Martin has been highly consistent in the mountains, while the time trials have been a small stumbling block, but that is no surprise to the Etixx-QuickStep rider. If he can keep it up for the next two days, he would be on for a career best finish at the Tour de France.
The 29-year-old puts his new-found consistency down to a change of scenery and his switch in teams. "I moved to Andorra, and I'm climbing more. I'm doing a lot more altitude in my rides and maybe my time trial has paid a little bit for that, but I'm really enjoying climbing with the best and being able to attack. I'm one of the few people that have wanted to attack," said Martin.
"I'm enjoying racing again, and that's what Etixx-QuickStep has brought me back to. In the bus, even though I lost time, everybody was just really happy that I'd had a go, and that's what this team is about."
He may desire his first top 10 finish at the Tour de France, but Martin has no plans on making changes to his approach. Martin has been one of the most aggressive of the overall contenders and is not concerned about losing ground in the GC by going on the attack.
"For me, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, they're all the same," explained Martin. "Obviously, a top 10 would be nice and hopefully, I've got the legs to have a go again. If I make the race harder then maybe I can jump up a few places, but I'm definitely not looking behind me.
"Tomorrow, I know the finish; it's a good mountaintop finish. I think it will be more decisive than Morzine, but it depends on the weather as well. It's a tricky descent to Morzine if it's wet; the Joux Plane is also pretty difficult. It's so late in the race that if you have a bad day at this stage, on those courses on that terrain, you could lose minutes. The race is still pretty open, and I've just got to recover now."