Friday 15 December 2017

Ireland's Dan Martin happy to target Tour de France stage wins rather than general classification

Slovakia's Peter Sagan (C) sprints to win ahead of Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet (L) and Ireland's Daniel Martin at the end of the 212,5 km third stage of the 104th edition of the Tour de France cycling race yesterday
Slovakia's Peter Sagan (C) sprints to win ahead of Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet (L) and Ireland's Daniel Martin at the end of the 212,5 km third stage of the 104th edition of the Tour de France cycling race yesterday

Ian Parker

When Dan Martin sprinted for third place on stage three of the Tour de France on Monday it seemed he was back to his days of hunting stages rather than targeting the general classification.

The Irishman admitted he surprised himself with the fight he put up in finishing behind world champion Peter Sagan and Australian Michael Matthews in Longwy.

But it might also have surprised fans who would have expected him to be marking his general classification rivals further down the final climb rather than burning energy chasing Sagan.

That is not how Martin races.

"I always prefer to go into a day like this thinking of the stage as a one-day race," the Quick-Step Floors rider told Press Association Sport. "You don't want to go in thinking just of not losing time.

"You have to go in with that mindset of just really racing aggressively."

Such an attitude certainly makes sense for a rider who has shown his pedigree in hilly classics, having won Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2013 and the Giro di Lombardia in 2014.

The 30-year-old has one Tour stage win to his name, taken in Bagneres-de-Bigorre in 2013, but that was at a time when he came to grand tours targeting individual stages.

This year, his focus is squarely on the general classification following encouraging signs in both Paris-Nice and the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this season, with Martin finishing third overall in both races.

He has admitted he is still on a learning curve when it comes to remaining in contention for a full three weeks, saying in a pre-Tour press conference he "raced like an idiot" last year, when he finished the Tour ninth overall.

"It's just the way the Tour is raced," he said when asked what he still needs to work on. "It's different to every other race. Half the peloton is racing not to lose time, half the peloton is aiming for the stage."

Quick-Step Floors are more often than not aiming for the stage themselves with premier sprinter Marcel Kittel - winner of stage two in Liege on Sunday - within their ranks.

Martin's general classification bid is perhaps secondary, but he insists he would rather be on a team celebrating regular stage wins than one built entirely around an assault on the yellow jersey.

"I prefer that we won (on Sunday) and the spirits are high," he said. "Other teams go into a lot of days and their mentality is just to not lose time. We're going into them trying to win and it just makes for a completely different atmosphere in the bus. It's really enjoyable."

The flip-side is that Martin knows he cannot expect too much help in the mountains, but that is not something that bothers him.

"The guys look after me incredibly well, it's not like I'm on my own all the time," he said. "In the mountains when the hammer goes down there's only 20 or 30 guys left anyway so most of them don't have much help.

"Only one team can ride on the front and I think it's more important for me to have that help on the flat stages than the climbs."

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