On the finishing climb of stage 5 of the Tour de France Dan Martin’s (Etixx-Quickstep) acceleration to the line indicated that his strong Dauphine legs have carried through to the Tour. The Pyrenees will be see the GC fight erupt, and Martin is hoping that he can perform as well there as he has done in the past.
"That's five days down and it's been a good start to the race for me. I’ll try and get through tomorrow and then it's the Pyrenees, a happy hunting ground for me in the past," he told Cyclingnews.
Etixx-Quickstep started stage 5 of the Tour de France with a strong chance of taking the yellow jersey as both Julian Alaphilippe and Dan Martin sat within touching distance of Peter Sagan's slender lead.
The Massif Central ended the Tinkoff rider's stay in yellow, but Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) won the stage and took the maillot jaune. On the face of it Etixx decision not to chase Van Avermaet and the early break may have looked like a missed opportunity, but it also provided an indication of the team’s real ambitions in the race. Work and they could have taken yellow for perhaps two stages, maybe three, but the long-game is Paris and a real tilt at the overall standings.
"Potentially we could have taken it but Alejandro Valverde could have and we can't ride every single stage," Martin told Cyclingnews at the finish.
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Etixx came into the race with a number of goals – gobbling up sprints with Marcel Kittel, taking the white jersey with Alaphilippe, propelling Martin up the overall and targeting stage wins all along the way. Lofty ambitions need proper and measured management.
"We've ridden the last three out of four stages and tomorrow we probably have to ride for Marcel. There are also 15 teams in the race who haven’t shown themselves at the front yet. We can’t commit to everyday so we have to gamble a bit,” Martin said of Etixx’s decision not to ride at the front.
Instead it was Movistar and Team Sky who took up the pace-setting duties. They gave the break too much room for the stage win but both GC powerhouses will be content to see BMC lead the race for now. As for Martin the day was a success. He held firm with the best climbers and even outkicked his rivals at the line and gained 5th place.
"I'm happy to survive it. The first mountains and the heat came as a bit of a shock. I think it did for everyone. The race seems to be very strange but it’s what I called yesterday when I said today we would see the GC teams have a standoff. It’s been a hard few days, roughly 18 hours on the bike in three stages and then the two stressful days to start with. Plus the roads feel like glue here," he told Cyclingnews.
"I'm happy to get through it and Julian as well. In the last 30 to 40 kilometres he was really suffering but I’m proud of him, and that he gets to keep his white jersey for another day."
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