It's better to have tried and failed then not to have tried at all. Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) has never been one to conform and while others watched and waited on stage 17 of the Tour de France, he did what he likes to do best and attacked.
Martin has tried and tried again during this year's Tour de France to break down the doors of the Team Sky fortress but has thus far found it unwilling to compromise. Five minutes behind the race leader, Martin thought that he may finally have found the key but once again found the door held firmly shut but the unrelenting pace of Wouter Poels (Team Sky). The trap door was all too easy to open and Martin slid through that in the final kilometres, losing just over 20 seconds to those closest to him.
"The pace kind of lulled a little bit. I kind of got the feeling that Sky were going to go really hard and attack but then they backed it off a little bit and maybe they weren't feeling so good, that's what I thought," Martin said of his attack. "I'm five minutes down so I thought, why not attack and maybe they'll just let me go but they obviously upped the pace and chased me down. It's a compliment; obviously I'm still a threat."
The climb to Finhaut and the Lac de Emosson is deceptively easy to start but it unleashes its steepest gradients as it twists and turns towards the top. Combined with the 35 degree heat, the climb was more brutish than one might think and it didn't let up after the finish line, still climbing before the descent to the dam where the busses were parked. Riders were helped by soigneurs and Tour de France staff to make it to the crest.
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Martin chose to climb off his bike just past the press tent situated midway up that part of the climb. Sitting on a wooden trolley, Martin caught his breath and rehydrated - as the waiting press stood a few feet back - before joking, ‘do I have to talk now.'
"I think that the heat just got to me and after the rest day as well. I think we were fair bit ahead of the schedule; it was such a fast day," Martin explained. "Astana and Movistar did a really hard tempo on the climb. I actually had really good legs, and I was starting to think that I had a bit of a bug last week because my legs feel totally different now. They feel a lot better now, having said that, I still got dropped. At least I tried to attack."
Despite losing time, Martin maintained his position in the overall classification, ninth, as others moved around him. Ninth would be Martin's best ever finish at the Tour de France and his second best in a Grand Tour but he's not fixated on the number at the end and rather how he gets there.
"It's a race isn't it, I'm relaxed," he said. "There's no reason to be stressed about it because all that I can do is my best and I know that if I try my hardest, my team, my sponsors and all the boys are going to be proud of me no matter what the result."