A late attack on Sunday’s crazy stage helped the Irishman claw back time in the general classification.
What a difference a week makes: last Sunday, Dan Martin lost over a minute after being involved in a crash on the Mont du Chat descent and saw his hopes of victory going up in smokes. For many, this would have spelled the end of their overall ambitions, but not for Dan, a rider tough as nails who always manages to find that extra something to bounce back from even the most calamitous situations.
Most recent proof came this Sunday, on the 189.5km-long stage in the Massif Central, where the Quick-Step Floors rider raced on instinct and attacked on the roads to Le Puy-en-Velay, gaping all the other favourites, reducing the deficit and gaining a place in the overall standings just ahead of the second and final rest day of this year’s Tour de France.
Stage 15, held in the Aubrac region, was another chaotic and action-packed one, especially in the second part, where the GC teams came to the fore and put pressure on the peloton, reducing the numbers significantly on the brutal gradients of the first-category Col de Peyra Taillade, a new addition to the Tour de France course, which no one knew, as the only other time it featured on the course of a race was at the 1997 Critérium du Dauphiné.
Dan Martin (sixth in the rankings at the start of the day) was attentive and responded to all the moves, before launching an attack of his own with less than ten kilometers to go and forging a gap. Under the 5km banner, the 30-year-old linked up with a couple of riders from the day’s breakaway and dug deep at the front, driving that group home 14 seconds clear of his opponents, including the yellow jersey.
“Everybody was on their limit on the last two climbs, and it’s really no surprise, as this week has been brutal. After the last ascent, I noticed how tired everyone was and how they kept looking at each other, so I said to give it a try. Can’t say the plan at the start of the day was to attack, I just seized the opportunity. I am happy with my legs and now I’m looking forward to the rest day. After this, we’ll see what the last week holds and what I can do in the Alps”, said Dan Martin at the finish Le Puy-en-Velay, where he climbed one place in the general classification, to fifth, just 1:12 behind the overall leader.
Marcel Kittel safely concluded the grueling stage 15 and is sure of wearing the famed green jersey at the start of next week, for the 14th time in his career. Victorious in five stages, a personal record in a Grand Tour, the 29-year-old German is happy to have made it through this tough mountain stages and is now hoping for a similar outcome next week-end, when the race will conclude in Paris.
“It’s no surprise if I say I am tired, everybody is after all these brutal stages in the Pyrenees and the Massif Central. The Tour has been really tough so far and I expect a very hard final week”, explained Marcel. “I have a nice lead in the points classification, but many things can still happen in the last stages and I’ll continue to fight for this jersey. I am focused and motivated to make it to Paris, so let’s hope for the best.”