Perhaps one of the most notable things about the opening week of the Tour de France, apart from how quick Marcel Kittel is, is how easy it has been for the breakaway to form. That changed dramatically on stage 8 to Station des Rousses, with a furious start to the day meaning that not only did the breakaway not form for several hours, but the stage finished ahead of the fastest predicted schedule.
Team Sky rode fairly defensively, but Martin is confident that this will change in the coming weeks.
"I think Chris [Froome] still needs more time. He's not going to want to ride all the way to Paris with just 20 seconds or ride to Marseille with 20 seconds," Martin said as he warmed down on the rollers after stage 8. "I think that we are going to see some more aggressive racing but today wasn't the stage for that. I think it was a case of getting through as best as possible and then tomorrow is the big test."
Martin came through the test up to Station des Rousses pretty well, finishing near the front of the group of favourites. He admitted that he wasn't feeling great at the beginning of the stage, but he worked his way into it, and by the end of the day he felt strong enough to have a little dig off the front. It didn't work out, with Team Sky shutting it down quickly, but it was worth a shot, according to Martin.
"It was more of an opportunity. I wasn't really planning it. I got a bit caught behind, and I was moving up from the back, and I thought why not try to put one up front," he said of the attack. "I didn't have the best day to start with, to be honest. I didn't feel really good this morning, but in the end, I came around and the legs started to feel good on the last climb. Hopefully, I can recover well tomorrow and then tomorrow will be the first real test, I think it will be the hardest stage of the Tour so far. After today, it's not going to be easy."
Next up will be Sunday's 181km ride from Nantua to Chambery, taking the peloton over seven climbs before a challenging downhill run towards the line. Martin knows it from the Criterium du Dauphine and is hoping for as few additional obstacles as possible.
"It's going to be brutal. I'm hoping for good weather because the downhills are treacherous even without rain," he said. "Whatever comes will be the same for everybody. We'll just get through as best as we can."
Martin sits fourth in the overall classification, just 25 seconds down after picking up some time earlier in the week, ahead of what is classified as the 2017 Tour's queen stage. Stages 1 and 5 have given the general classification a bit of shape, but stage 9 will really begin to give it some recognisable form.
"I was third on the first rest day last year, so it's a similar position. I'm hoping that we can keep it rolling tomorrow and get to that first, well-deserved rest day and we'll assess where we are. We just need to get through tomorrow and then we can think about GC."
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