It could have been better, and it could have been worse. So it goes. Dan Martin's longstanding mantra of treating the entirety of the Tour de France as a succession of one-day races meant that he was never going to dwell too long on the 1:45 he conceded to Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) on Alpe d'Huez on stage 12 on Thursday.
Martin lost contact with the Team Sky-led yellow jersey group with more than 10 kilometres of the climb still to go and faced the rest of the ascent alone. Having first scaled the mountain as a 15-year-old, the UAE Team Emirates leader was keenly aware of what lay ahead, but he managed his suffering as best he could to limit the damage.
"With all the TV motorbikes, they're accelerating out of the corners and I just lost the wheels on one of those corners, so I just rode at my own tempo," Martin told Cyclingnews. "I didn't want to go into the red because I knew it would be a long climb if you explode. It was a strange race.
"There was nothing left in the legs – I just had no power left – so I just took it at my own pace," the Irishman continued. "I lost a bit more time than I thought. I thought the race would explode sooner, and if people went into the red, I could have picked some of them off. But it was a headwind, and at the end of the day, it was difficult on my own."
Team Sky's infernal pacemaking at the head of the leading group was the defining characteristic of the three days in the Alps, but Martin was the only rider to attempt to attack the British team on the Col de la Colombière on Tuesday, and he was on the offensive once again at La Rosière the following afternoon. He believes it would be simplistic, however, to deduce that he later paid a price for that strategy on Alpe d'Huez. Besides, his aggression had already paid a rich dividend at Mûr-de-Bretagne in the opening week.
"The attacks didn't make any difference," Martin said. "Everybody finished that stage dead, and I just had a bad moment at the wrong time. I've never really enjoyed the Alps too much anyway, so we’ll look forward to the Pyrenees."
Martin lies ninth overall following the Tour's passage through the Alps, 5:11 down on yellow jersey Thomas and 3:21 off a podium berth. A year ago, Martin recorded his best Tour finish of sixth overall in Paris, and with so much distance left to run, he has scope to improve on that finish this time around.
The 31-year-old has already responded well to one setback on this Tour. After crashing heavily and losing over a minute on the road to Amiens on stage 8, Martin produced an assured display on the cobbles the following afternoon.
Martin's preferred playground of the Pyrenees – he lives in Andorra and won at Bagnères-de-Bigorre at the 2013 Tour – is still to come, while the weekend's trek through the Massif Central might also provide opportunities for a climber with the instinct of a puncheur. Stage 14 finishes on the Côte de la Croix Neuve outside Mende, while Sunday's instalment sees the peloton tackle the Pic de Nore en route to Carcassonne.
"It could be brutally hot. I hadn't even looked at Sunday's stage until this morning when I saw the profile. It's a stage that's going to be a lot harder than it looks," Martin said. "I think at this point in the Tour, you're looking at decisive stages, and, like I said from the start, it's this war of attrition that's going to continue.
"Every day somebody might have a bad day and lose the Tour. Hopefully mine's out of the way – I've had a couple of bad days, with the crash and yesterday – but hopefully we'll kick on and we'll be feeling better in the Pyrenees."
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