Keeping his cool despite the high heat and steep climbs of the Pyrénées, Slipstream-Chipotle's Daniel Martin rode himself into the overall lead of the Route du Sud on Saturday's stage three. The nephew of Irish great Stephen Roche, Martin attacked the final kilometres of the unrelenting Super Bagneres climb, to finish behind stage winner Przemyslaw Niemec (Miche - Silvercross).
A 12-man breakaway formed early in the stage, and led over the first climb, the Col du Tourmalet. Martin, who was 17 seconds behind Noan Lelarge (Bretagne-Armor Lux) in the morning, demonstrated his climbing talents on the Col du Val Louron, where he followed an attack by Christophe Moreau (Agritubel), and made the lead group over the top.
With riders still surviving from the early breakaway up the road, Martin's Slipstream team-mates Trent Lowe and Tom Peterson bridged across after the Col de Peyresourde with 10 kilometres to go, and helped him protect his position on the final climb. In the last four kilometres, Martin countered an attack from Luca Pierfelici (Acqua & Sapone) and dropped Moreau, and finished behind three riders who survived from the early breakaway: Niemec, Kevin de Weert (Cofidis) and Julien Loubet (AG2R), none of whom threatened his GC position.
The Irishman's attack put nearly a minute into the next best rider on GC, Moreau, whom he now leads by 1'42" with one stage to go. Team manager Jonathan Vaughters was proud of his first year professional. "Today Dan showed the rare calmness under pressure that defines the difference between good and great riders," he wrote on the team's website. "His physical strengths are obvious, but he's a bit like Taylor Phinney in the respect that he's enormously talented. What makes him great is his ability to relax, even when the stakes are very high.
"He won't ride the Tour de France this year, but he will soon enough. I'm sure he'll be one of the great climbers of the Tour when his day comes."
The final 207-kilometre stage from Saint Gaudens to Castres heads over three category three climbs before the finishing circuit in Castres.