Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) may not have made the top three in the Tour de France’s overall classification but the Irishman will stand on the podium in Paris after he was awarded the 'Super Combative' prize. He took the honour following a mixture of public and jury voting, beating Lawson Craddock, Alejandro Valverde, Julian Alaphilippe and several others.
Martin wasn’t aware of the news when he crossed the line in Saturday's penultimate-stage time trial and looked shocked when he was told he would have a trip to the rostrum in Paris.
He said that his aggressive approach was not an effort to provide entertainment, but the prize meant a lot to him all the same.
"I don’t really race to make the race entertaining, I always try to calculate when to attack and try to make it count. I’m racing to win, but that’s incredible," Martin said after the stage. "I’m not sure that anyone has won it without winning it on a single day but I just try my best every day.
"My aim was to be on the podium in Paris this year, but I didn’t really say much about it in the media. Obviously, with the misfortune and the crashes, it didn’t happen but that’s huge. It really means a lot."
There was little that Martin could gain or lose in the time trial and he finished the day where he started, in eighth place. There have been lots of positives for Martin to take away from the race, such as his win on stage 6 on the Mur de Bretagne, but the smooth came with the rough. On stage 8, he crashed heavily and injured his back. He has played the seriousness of the injury down, describing it as looking like a pizza at one point, but he admitted on Saturday that he had really suffered in the Alps.
"Yesterday [Friday], for the first time, I really realised how much the crash affected me on Alpe d’Huez. I just couldn’t push myself that day,” he said. “Yesterday, I was really tired and I was hurting but I could still grit my teeth and do it. On Alpe d’Huez, I just didn’t have any power to do it. I didn’t realise at the time, but it was the crash that caused that. I’m never one to look back and I think I just need to take it as a positive for the years to come. I’ve not got many years left but it shows what’s possible in the future.
"It was incredibly memorable race. It means a lot to win the first stage of the Tour for UAE, which was a mission for the team right from the beginning. The reason I came along to this team was this kind of legacy, to bring cycling to the people of the UAE and make it a big sport there and to get kids on bikes. That’s always been a passion of mine and apparently everyone has been glued to the TV in the UAE and that means a lot."
Martin says that it will take some time before his back is completely healed after the crash two weeks ago, but he still grins from ear to ear as he speaks to the press. It is easy to get stuck into the minutiae of battling it out for the overall title but it is clear that Martin has been trying to absorb it all. He’s at the biggest race of the year and he’s going to enjoy it whatever comes.
"It looks like I’ve been shot. I’ve got a hole in my back still that’s going to take another two weeks to heal. It was far from ideal but what a memorable Tour, I think for everyone,” he said. “It has been one of the most open Tours for a long time.
"I think you see when we stopped to get rid of the pepper spray the other day, you see me, Tom [Dumoulin], [Primoz] Roglic and Geraint [Thomas] just stood there having a chat. It shows the mutual respect that we have for each other. For a time yesterday, we were all completely empty but we were trying to attack the hell out of each other. It made for great racing but it’s also great to be a part of the race.”