Dan Martin will enjoy the first rest day of the Tour de France with a nice feeling in his mind – if not necessarily his legs – after a tough opening week ended with the Irishman well placed.
Martin was alert to the danger on Monday’s stage 10 to Albi and when echelons ripped the peloton apart in a frantic finale, he got on the right side of the splits to move up to ninth overall.
Though still two minutes and nine seconds down on Julian Alaphilippe in yellow, Martin knows the real deficit to monitor is the 57-second gap to second-placed Geraint Thomas, and that is one he can live with.
“I think I’ve managed to get through it easy as possible, if that’s a way of saying it,” Martin said of an opening week that proved tougher than the stage profiles might have suggested.
“I’ve ridden conservatively but the course this year hasn’t really suited an attacking start unless you’ve got the form that Julian has.
“I think we’re pretty happy with where we are at the moment. Obviously it would be nice to be a bit closer to yellow but I think we would have taken this position before the start of the race.”
The deficit Martin has to Thomas was mostly a product of the stage two team time trial, in which UAE Team Emirates could only manage 16th, giving up 43 seconds to Ineos in second, while Thomas’ late dig on La Planche des Belles Filles on stage six saw the Welshman pick up 14 seconds.
An opportunity to claw some of that back appeared on Saturday’s stage eight to Saint Etienne when Alaphilippe and Pinot attacked shortly after Thomas was involved in a crash, but Martin could not latch on.
“I was there or thereabouts but unless you were right on their wheel there was no way of going on such a short effort,” he said. “There were probably three or four guys between me and them and if they can’t follow you can’t follow.
“I don’t know if I’d have chosen to follow or not but it wasn’t really in our plan to go on the offensive that day.
“They did an incredible attack so I don’t think I would have been able to go with them anyway. They’ve got a bit more explosiveness than me at the moment.”
Instead, Martin’s chance came on the flatter roads heading in to Albi. He and the team had discussed the possibility of crosswinds before the start, and Martin made sure he was not caught out of position.
“Even from the first kilometres it was stressful,” he said. “Everybody knew with the wind it was dangerous and when you have 220 kilometres it can happen at any moment.
“You always need a bit of luck to be in the front and not have bad luck like a mechanical or anything.
“I was always in the top 20 when it was fighting, fighting, fighting all the time.
“When they really attacked I was right there with them, then Sven (Erik Bystrom) came up to me and he rode with me and rode in the wind a bit for me and brought me really to the front.
“We’ll take it for sure. Anything can happen on any day of the Tour. Everybody has a bad day and for us today was a good day. It’s a really nice way to go into the rest day.”