A pre-race dark horse candidate for the Tour de France's best young rider classification, Guillaume Martin's third-place finish at Station des Rousses was a signal of the Frenchman's potential in the mountains.
One of nine Tour debutants in Wanty-Groupe Gobert's squad, Martin is strictly on general classification duty in the race while his teammates have been given free reign to chase the breakaways. However, it is Martin who has recorded the best result yet after he led the yellow jersey group home 50 seconds down on Lilian Calmejane and 13 seconds down on Robert Gesink.
"For my first discovery of the mountains in the Tour, to finish third is obviously a super stage for me. It was fast, very fast all day," said Martin. "There were a lot of attacks. When I saw the first group, or should I say bunch, go away, I was a little frustrated not to be in it. But then we made it back. I was feeling good, I tried to anticipate the big battle and eventually they did not come back. I did not take a lot of time for the GC but I'm still glad about..."
The 24-year-old added that for a team like Wanty-Groupe Gobert, the podium place needs to be seen as a great success.
"I was able to take advantage of the defensive attitude of the big riders. This achievement is great for our team, who has a small budget compared to teams like Sky or BMC. We evolve with our own resources and try to ride smart. The atmosphere in the team is fantastic, we go for the breakaways and have fun. Then the good performances follow."
The result moved Martin into 20th place in the general classification, but his fifth place in the best young rider classification remains unchanged in fifth. 1:40 minutes down on Simon Yates (Orica-Scott).
"I hoped I could get a bigger advantage and gain some places in the overall ranking, but I am very pleased with this third place. Hilaire Van der Schueren would rather save our energy and defend our places while I rather like to go on the offensive," he added. "He always said: "Follow, follow, follow!" with his experiences in three weeks of competition. Tomorrow, I will perhaps pay the price for my efforts. But then I already achieved this! "
Sports director Hilaire Van der Schueren added to Martin's comments, explaining he expects the "philosopher-climber" will find stage 9's challenging stage into Chambery a difficult day after his efforts.
"This result is great for us. We could not hope better! Guillaume also advances to the top 20 in the overall ranking. This is Le Tour! I hope he will not have a rebound tomorrow because with four climbs it promises to be a hard day," Van der Schueren said of his rider who planned on becoming a journalist if he hadn't turned professional.
"Guillaume is a horse we sometimes have to slow down because he always wants to go on the offensive. But his temper is fantastic, he knows what he wants."