Bernard Hinault is famous for the phrase: "As long as I breathe, I attack." At this year's Tour de France, Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) seems to have followed the Breton’s philosophy every day, and he attacked yet again on the climb to the finish at the summit of the Col d'Izoard.
Yet again, Martin's aggression did not get him the stage victory he arguably deserves, but it did seem him gain time on Fabio Aru (Astana) and so edge closer to fifth place. For now, he is sixth, 2:56 down on Team Sky's Chris Froome.
Without the crash with Richie Porte (BMC Racing) on the descent to Chambery on stage 9, he could have been much closer. Without the injuries and back pain caused by the crash, he could have been fighting for a final spot on the podium with Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac).
Martin launched the first attack on the Col du Galibier on Wednesday, sparking the shakeout amongst the overall contenders. He did it again on the Col d'Izoard, jumping away and powering on the pedals out of the saddle.
As ever, every attack had a logic and a hope behind it.
"I tried to keep the pressure on Aru, who was suffering. I also wanted to see if I could distance Froome and manage to open a gap, before he came back," Martin explained after the finish line, not caring for the GC status quo.
"I found it strange that no one else attacked Froome. It looked like they wanted to protect their places in the GC, but that was their decision. From my part, I gave everything I had and I am happy and proud to be here ahead of the final weekend. It's quite the performance considering my first week crash and the fact many of our guys had to abandon through illness.
"It's strange nobody openly attacks Froome, but everyone is so cautious and everyone is so tired, that it's difficult. Chris' team is strong so it's hard to tell if he's good or suffering, so some people hesitate. There's also a bit of tactics and poker faces going on between the guys who are up there on GC. I seem to be the only one willing to take a risk and attack."
Podium places locked-up, Froome set for a fourth victory
With the Alps and all the mountains of this year's Tour de France over, Martin is likely to stay safely hidden in the peloton during Friday's 222.5km haul down to Salon-de-Provence and rest up for Saturday's 22.5km time trial around Marseille - his former home from his amateur days.
Martin is 1:01 behind Fabio Aru in the overall classification and is unlikely to pull back enough seconds to move up to fifth in the Marseille time trial. He also sees the podium places locked up, with Froome on track to take his fourth overall victory.
"I think it's decided now. The top three guys are set," Martin suggested, even if the top three are still within 30 seconds and Froome remained cautious.
"The time trial could affect it a little, but we saw in Düsseldorf that most of the guys are pretty close. It's Chris that is so much better in time trials."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.