Not that the super combativity award is of much worth to a general classification rider, but if the judges were to look beyond a breakaway artist this year then Dan Martin would surely be the prime candidate. The Quick-Step Floors rider, battered, bruised, and barely able to stand up straight since his stage 9 crash, has hardly stopped attacking at this Tour de France and, while many followed the wheels up the Col du Galibier on Wednesday, the Irishman was rolling the dice once again.
"I don't know what I was thinking there," Martin said of his decision to disrupt the Team Sky procession some six kilometres from the summit.
His words echoed the praise heaped upon him on the second rest day by Romain Bardet, who said he admired Martin because "he doesn't ask questions, he just goes".
Martin gained small chunks of time en route to Foix and Le Puy-en-Velay and cold calculations suggested he might have been in the yellow jersey were it not for the time he lost on stage 9 when, through no fault of his own, he was wiped out by Richie Porte. That left him with severe stiffness in his back, with a video emerging of him unable to return to an upright position in Foix, but he felt back to his best in the first of two days in the Alps.
"[I was trying to] make it uncomfortable for Sky. The tempo they were riding wasn't too hard so I thought maybe Chris was having a bad day or something, so I was just testing it out," said Martin, who drove again as Fabio Aru yo-yoed off the back towards the top of the climb.
"I thought I would test them out, but I didn't go too deep. It was good, fun racing again. I was thinking I was having a bad day all day – I feel really tired – but everybody's the same, everybody's running on fumes and it's just a mental battle."
Unfortunately for Martin, his aggression saw him move no closer to the podium – further away, in fact, as "Contador left a gap" and Chris Froome, Romain Bardet, Rigoberto Uran, and Mikel Landa stole away and finished 30 seconds clear. The consolation was that he moved back up into sixth as Simon Yates, who had jumped above him in the crosswinds in Tuesday, lost contact near the top of the Galibier.
In any case, he explained that, physically, he is starting to feel himself once more.
"I'm getting there. I stood up straight away - Disco Dan's back again, I guess. I can dance again, just in time for Paris," he joked. "Obviously that crash, I think it affected my recovery that second week and maybe I'm paying for that again. But physically it's good to actually feel like a rider again…I don't even think about that crash anymore so that's got to be a good thing."
The gap to Landa in fifth place is over a minute, and the podium places look pretty set, but that shouldn't blunt Martin's attacking instincts on Thursday's marquee summit finish on the Col d'Izoard, where he predicts ‘war'.
"Dan's whole mindset is attacking, so nobody's sitting on the radio telling him what to do," said Quick-Step directeur sportif, Brian Holm. "I think the way he's racing, I really like it. He'll break his neck sometimes but I just love it. He's going, going, going and basically he dies with his boots on."
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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