The mountains have arrived for the Tour de France peloton as the race begins its jaunt through all five of the mountain regions of France. La Planche des Belles Filles gets the honour of the first summit finish of this year's race.
The last two times the race has gone up the Planche des Belles Filles, the time gaps have not been that substantial. However, with weather warming up, and plenty of riders interested in making up time, Dan Martin – 16th overall – believes we could end up with some bigger than usual time gaps at the finish.
"It's warming up a bit so it's going to be a hard stage with a hard finish and with that finish line there is a decent chance that there are going to be some large time gaps, even if there is a decent sized group coming in together.
A short, sharp finish such as La Planche des Belles Filles should suit Martin's climbing ability but with little real climbing before they reach the crucial ascent, he doesn't know what how he will perform.
"I'm unsure. I'm normally better when there are three or four climbs in a day," he explained. "A one-off explosive effort, even with my traits, I'm normally good at an explosive effort, but it's normally after 260 kilometres at Liege so that one-off climb is a bit unknown. But, we will see, we'll do our best and if I can be there in the finish then it suits me for the sprint."
Every second counts
In this year's Tour de France, where there are so few major mountain stages, every second could count. Martin learned that last year when he missed out on seventh place by just a few seconds. He gained some time on stage 3 after finding his sprint legs and taking third behind Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb). His efforts earned him a small time bonus, which moved him ahead of most of the GC riders into 16th place at 43 seconds.
"Nobody seems to be mentioning me still so I don't want to mention it too much. Ironically, I lost seventh on GC by just six seconds last year and I just got those six seconds the other day.
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