Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) endured a difficult weekend in the Pyrenees at the Tour de France, fading on the climb to the summit of the Tourmalet on Saturday and on the road to Prat d'Albis on Sunday after being in the breakaway. Despite now being 15th overall and 11:39 down on Julian Alaphilippe, the Irishman refused to throw in the towel on the rest day, seeing opportunities amongst the unpredictability of the battle for overall victory and in the high Alps of the third week.
"It hasn't gone as planned in the last few days but we're going to keep fighting all the way to Paris," Martin told Cyclingnews defiantly in his hotel in Nîmes after a morning ride.
"There's still a lot of opportunities out there for me. It's going to be a big finale, with three impossible stages and the climatic conditions are going to be added factor too. It's been a very difficult Tour and it's going to get more difficult."
Martin preferred to keep the cause of his problems to himself until the end of the Tour but he and the UAE Team Emirates staff have clearly been working on a solution.
"The condition is there, it's just about working out why we have this tailing off at the end of the stages. I'm not going to go into details but we have a few ideas and hope they'll work," he said.
"It's not due to lack of effort, my legs have just gone on me. Now I just want to get back feeling myself and get back push the limits again, all the way to the finish. We'll change our approach to the race and see what happens."
The person who's bad day is the least bad, will win the Tour de France
Martin is cautious about setting goals and making wider predictions about the outcome of the Tour de France. He knows full well what lies ahead in Alps and how the first two weeks of the Tour have been raced.
"There's a lot of fatigue in the peloton and so it's going to be hard even getting to Paris this year for some. It's going to be interesting how the race enfolds," Martin said.
"The pace has been on since the very start. The level is so high now and that it comes down to the professionalism of the peloton, every detail can make a defence when you're at the very limits of human ability.
"We're going to see the real differences in the final mountain stages and discover how people have ridden the first two weeks. Some have already been dropping off, including me, in the Pyrenees and it's going to be a real war of attrition right to the end.
"The person who's bad day is the least bad, will win the Tour de France. This race can be won on consistency rather than being aggressive and attacking taking time."
Martin's analysis appears tipped in favour of Team Ineos and perhaps Egan Bernal more than Geraint Thomas. He suspects that Alaphilippe will pay the price for his aggressive racing despite the lift of wearing the yellow jersey. But like everyone, he is not sure.
"It's funny how one day can change the outlook of this year's race. After the Tourmalet people were saying how Julian could keep the jersey till Paris but then he lost time and suddenly the bets are off. But maybe Sunday was his bad day. Who really knows?" Martin asks.
"We'll find out in the Alps. The last stage ends with a 34km long climb! We don't ever race long, long climbs like that. And it's after the high altitude of the Col de I'Iseran the day before too. When you think of high altitude, one name comes up: Egan Bernal.
"It's going to be very aggressive and interesting race. I want to see how it plays out but I want to be part of it too."
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