It was a day of radically mixed contrasts for Colombia on Friday's stage 13 of the Tour de France as Dani Martínez (EF Pro Cycling) claimed the country's first stage win even as the GC hopes compatriot Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) took an important blow.
The winner of the Critérium du Dauphiné, Martínez had been experiencing a rollercoaster Tour de France himself after crashing twice in the first stage, losing time at Orcières-Merlette then bidding adios to the overall classification in the echelons of stage 7 – exactly one week before his victory at Le Puy Mary.
Martínez was one of three EF Pro Cycling riders in a day-long 18-rider break on Friday. After a brief dig by Hugh Carthy with Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) mid-stage to test the water, Martínez's other teammate Neilson Powless went clear, shortly before the fifth of seven climbs, with Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) in hot pursuit.
It was only when Powless was caught and then dropped by the Paris-Nice winner that Martínez began chasing behind, first benefiting from a strong counter-attack by Marc Soler (Movistar), but then closing the gap himself with Schachmann’s teammate Lennard Kämna in tow.
On paper, with two strong climbers as rivals and having worked so hard to shut down Schachmann on the Puy Mary, it looked as if Martínez's chances were slight. But instead he managed first to shed Schachmann and then leave Kämna reeling within sight of the line.
"When I heard that Powless was with Schachmann I felt pretty calm, but when they radioed through that Neilson had been dropped, I knew it was my duty to go look for him," Martínez said.
"When I went over the second category [Col de la Néronne] I thought I was fighting for second place, I was so far back. But then when we actually reached Schachmann on that last climb I thought it was possible again."
Kämna, predictably, made one move almost as soon as the duo reached his teammate with 1.6km to go where the road was steepening to well over 10 percent, but Martínez managed to bring that back with his grinding but effective climbing style.
"I could see from the way they were looking they weren't in such great shape," Martínez said, "but it was never going to be straightforward. Finally, though, I could get the win."
Martínez said that his initial objective in the break of the day was to help Rigoberto Urán if the EF GC leader countered from the main group, but then the gap was so wide between the break and the bunch – up to ten minutes as the finale loomed – that he was given the green light to go for his own chances once Powless had begun to falter.
"I'm very pleased, winning the Dauphiné was incredible, but this has been a very tough Tour for me with the crashes and so on," Martínez commented. "But I knew my underlying form was there, so I still wanted a stage win at least."
Urán himself crossed the line close to Egan Bernal but has moved up to fourth overall, and the podium at least is within reach for the veteran Colombian as the GC suffered a major shakeup, while EF have also staked a claim at the top of the team ranking.
But whatever happens in the final week, EF have now claimed mountain stages in both ongoing WorldTour races in a question of days – first Mike Woods in Tirreno-Adriatico and now Martínez in the Tour de France.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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