Garmin rider slips a few GC spots in time trial stage
For Dan Martin, the Tour de France is a series of one-day races, and it's a mantra that he has been asked to repeat in two languages ever since his stage victory at Bagnères-de-Bigorre alerted the large swathes of the host media to his fluent French, honed during his apprenticeship as an amateur at VC La Pomme in Marseille.
Martin slipped from eighth to 13th place overall after he finished 3:36 down in Wednesday's stage 11 time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel, but the Irishman was unconcerned when he wheeled to a halt past the finish, explaining first to France Télévisions and then a wider media scrum that he is taking the race day by day.
"It wasn't really the best course for me, but I did the best I could out there," Martin said. "I rode as hard as I could for the whole way. I've got a lot to learn as far as pacing goes in time trialling and I struggled a little bit in the headwind in the last few kilometres, but I think everybody's the same.
"I probably started a little bit too hard but I wanted to use the first part of the parcours to try and not lose too much time. My legs weren't great today, but that's normal after 11 days of racing. I'm happy - I did my best, so I have to be happy."
The ability to place performances in their proper perspective within seconds of crossing the finish line is a rarity, least of all in the heightened atmosphere of the Tour de France, but Martin patiently explained why he is not putting the cart before the horse when it comes to the general classification.
"It's not my goal to finish in the top five: my goal is just to take every day as it comes and now I've got 10 more one-day races to come," Martin said.
It was put to the Garmin-Sharp man that this Tour was something akin to a learning experience but, in reality, lessons have already been absorbed via trial and error through his career to date, not least at his illness-hit Tour debut last year. At 26 years of age, and with four Grand Tours already under his belt, Martin is rider approaching his prime rather than a wide-eyed dilettante.
"I just found that the best way of riding the Grand Tours is to take it one day at a time. I found out last year that treating it all as whole doesn't work for me," Martin said. "In the 2011 Vuelta [when he won stage and finished 13th overall in Madrid], I treated it as 21 one-day races and that's how I'm approaching this race. I won one of those this year."
The next one-day race to his liking, so to speak, awaits atop Mont Ventoux on Sunday. Until then, it seems, the handful of seconds that now separate Martin from the top ten overall will not weigh heavily on his mind. "Every day I look at the parcours and see what the deal is and then in Paris, we'll find out where I am in the end," he said.
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