While all eyes were understandably on Chris Froome and Alberto Contador at Les Gets after their prologue duel at the Criterium du Dauphine, perhaps the biggest smile belonged to Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), who put in what he described as a hugely pleasing, if not surprising ride.
The Irishman finished fourth on the stage, 21 seconds down on winner Alberto Contador, and with only Richie Porte and Froome ahead of him on the 3.9-kilometre uphill test.
“I’m obviously pretty happy and surprised,” he said once he found his composure.
“I’ve been in Andorra and just riding my bike. I love riding in the mountains. I’ve not really done any specific training at all and that’s the first time I’ve hit that heart rate since Liege. It bodes well for the rest of the week.
“You could probably have the same result if you put us all on home trainers in a sports hall and see who can do the most power. I know that’s what it looks like at home, but honestly there’s a lot of tactics going on. There’s some big gaps in the overall because if you go too hard at the beginning or in the steep part then you can lose a lot.”
There was no taking away from Martin’s legs as they helped him put over 30 seconds in Fabio Aru (Astana) and Thibualt Pinot (FDJ) but he also praised his teammate, Julian Alaphilippe, who finished fifth, just three seconds down on Martin.
“I spoke to Julian and his advice helped a lot. He went as hard as he could on the steep part, expecting it to get easier to the line but there was a headwind and if you didn’t stay on it for the final 600 meters then you could lose 15, 20 seconds. It’s very easy to get carried away with the people but I didn’t really ride to power, as I haven’t don’t any training for it. I just used the power meter to stop me from going too deep at the start.”
Martin and Alaphilippe enter the Dauphine as one of the most dynamic duos in this year’s race. Both athletes ride aggressively in the mountains and will waste no time in attacking if the opportunity presents itself. Their one-two combos in the mountains could be a major factor during the race but Martin is not putting any pressure on his shoulders.
“I have zero expectations for this week because I’ve come into the race not knowing where my form is. I’ve been good in training but I’ve not done any test. It’s all been endurance rides. My weight is really good. It’s a bit different this year because the aim is the Tour but we also have the Olympics, which are nine weeks away. It looks like I’m going well.
“The Dauphine is always a super aggressive race and they’ve designed the course to provoke open and aggressive racing. It’s a really difficult race to control because every day is hard and because everyone here is in good condition. There are no days off.”
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