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Guillaume Martin: When you have given everything, you can’t be disappointed

Tour de France 2021 108th Edition 15th stage Ceret Andorra la Vella 1913 km 11072021 Guillaume Martin FRA Cofidis photo Luca BettiniBettiniPhoto2021
Guillaume Martin of Cofidis could not stay in the yellow jersey group on stage 15 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

A man can run up a debt at the Tour de France, but sooner rather than later, the race demands that he settles his account. On Saturday, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) showed enterprise to get in the day’s break and move up seven places to second place overall. Just 24 hours later, the Frenchman was distanced from the yellow jersey group on the descent of the Port d’Envalira and he dropped right back down to ninth on general classification.

“I was expecting that,” Martin said when he reached the mixed zone past the finish line. “I was expecting to suffer after the effort I made yesterday. It was very hard. Fortunately there was a headwind [on the Envalira], which helped to ease the pace for a little bit, but in the end I was on the limit.”

Martin had managed to withstand the pace-making of Ineos Grenadiers on the long, two-part climb to the Tour’s highest point, but the effort he made to stay in contact on the way up came at the cost of his lucidity over the other side. After allowing a gap to open on the first bends of the descent of the Envalira, Martin was simply lacking the strength to close it. With each pedal stroke, the yellow jersey group disappeared further into the valley below him.

“It’s frustrating that I was dropped on the first corners of the descent, but that’s because I was really flat out,” said Martin, who eventually found himself with Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck-QuickStep) for company in his forlorn pursuit of Tadej Pogačar (Jumbo-Visma), et al. They were unable to bridge the gap on the drop towards Encamp and their deficit stretched out towards four minutes on the final ascent of the Col de Beixalis.

“There were just two of us and it was complicated to chase back on. We were always at 20 seconds and we used up a lot of energy. It was a complicated day, but I expected it a bit after yesterday. But when I take these two stages together, it wasn’t so bad.”

Martin reached the finish in Andorra Le Vielle 8:45 down on stage winner Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and just shy of four minutes behind the yellow jersey group. In the overall standings, he drops to ninth place, 7:58 behind Pogačar and 2:26 off the podium. Martin had effectively written off any general classification aspirations even before this Tour started, citing the nature of the route, and he wore his disappointment lightly in Andorra.

“When you have given everything, you can’t be disappointed. The frustration is more at having lost the wheels on a descent, but that’s simply because I was flat out,” said Martin. “I mean, disappointment – I wasn’t expecting to win the Tour de France, you know. I was dropped with Cattaneo, who was in the break with me yesterday. We’ve often been in and around the same place on this Tour, so I was simply at my level today.”

Since placing 23rd on his Tour debut in 2017, Martin has improved his final overall position each year. His 11th place in Paris last September made him the highest-placed French finisher and he is on course to match that feat this year, even if he has long expressed a desire to mark his Tour with a stage win rather than ride in anonymity towards a high overall finish.

“I’m going to look at the GC calmly,” Martin said. “On Monday, I’ll take stock of what to do based on my ability to recover.”