A self-described ‘bad day’ on the first mountain stage at the Tour de France for Dan Martin and Cannondale-Garmin was immediately rectified on stage 11 to Cauterets with the reward of second place and the combativity prize.
The Irishman ignored the signs from his legs to infiltrate the day’s breakaway which had taken two hours to form, taking it upon himself to repair the damage of the climb to La Pierre Saint Martin where he and Andrew Talansky didn’t have “power left” and finished 11:34 minutes down on stage winner Chris Froome.
“It was a bit unexpected at the start as the guys kept it under control to try and get into the breakaway,” Martin said after his second placed in this Tour de France with hint of pride and resignation.
“I tried to go in a few breaks and tried to go with Thomas Voeckler on the cat 3 [Côte de Loucrup] but I had really bad legs and couldn’t follow the break when they went. I don’t know why but I just decided to attack, I was just talking to Andrew before about normal stuff, then I had this gut instinct to attack and felt like the right thing to do even though you really should say it’s the wrong thing to do, it worked out in the end.”
A blistering ascent of the Col d’Aspin saw Martin ride across a four-minute gap and join the breakaway, taking maximum points on the category 1 climb before the long descent into Plan Sainte-Marie-de-Campan leading into the hors catégorie Col du Tourmalet.
With the break starting to splinter on the highest climb in this year’s Tour, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) decided to go on his own to claim the five thousand euro prize along with the solo stage win.
Martin was fourth over the Tourmalet with Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Argon 18) cresting the 2115 metre mountain in front of him, explaining his legs were paying for his earlier efforts of bridging the gap.
“Normally to bridge across to a group and still get second, I am really proud of how I rode today and just a shame I lacked a bit of strength on the climbs to go with Rafal,” he said. “To get second again after bad day yesterday shows the team is still in the race.”
Martin caught the duo, dropping Pauwels on the Cote de Cauterets to ride into the finish one minute down on Majka.
Speaking to Cyclingnews before the start of the stage, sport director Charly Wegelius had explained the team needed to bounce back after the disappointment of stage 10. Words that resonated with Martin as he demonstrated on the 188km stage.
“We’ve made a different strategy obviously with the consequences of what happened yesterday,” Wegelius said. “Obviously we look ahead and see which riders we are going to use on which stages on the basis on what’s coming up. Obviously in the second half of the Tour you always have to measure everyday the status of the riders as far the recuperations is concerned.”
At the Cannondale-Garmin team bus, Martin added a repeat of his 2013 Pyrenean victory in the Tour is still the ambition having also come close on the Mûr-de-Bretagne, finishing second, and placing fourth on the stage 3 finish at the Mur de Huy.
“Yesterday was a really bad day, obviously my legs are good so well keep trying.”