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First year pro. Dan Martin is in the lead of the Route du Sud after a superb ride through the Pyrenees. He explains how it happened.

If you?d put stage three of the Route du Sud in the Tour de France route this year, it wouldn?t have been out of place: after all the Tourmalet, the Val Louron, the Peyresourde and the final climb to Superbagneres are all major ascents in anybody?s book. In fact, Scottish climbing legend Robert Millar won a stage of the Tour finishing in Superbagneres.

Fast forward two decades and after a stage including all those climbs and with an all-out attack by France?s leading stage race specialist Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) thrown in for good measure, Dan Martin leads the final warm-up race for the Tour de France - the Route du Sud.

?I knew I?d been going well since a race I did in Portugal recently where I was up there with guys like [former US Postal pro.] Jose Azevedo.? Martin told Cycling Weekly on Saturday evening.

?Then on the first stage, when I got into the break that stayed away, I knew it was a good chance for me to do something on the overall classification.?

?The time trial the next day worked out well, too, and then it came down to this big mountain stage.?

Martin pays full credit to his team, Slipstream, for putting him in a position to drop Moreau 2.5 kilometres from the finish at Superbagneres.

?It was them that really have motivated me all the way through this, and they did a huge amount of work for me today. Team Garmin [the new title sponsor for the team] has arrived!"

Amongst those team-mates who helped him, he mentions that ?Trent [Lowe, Slipstream climber] was the guy who did a massive amount of work on the Peyresourde and then took me up to four kilometres to go on Superbagneres. That made it all possible.?

?To be honest, I didn?t even really attack. I just upped my rhythm and that seemed to get rid of everybody.? Including Moreau.

?He?d attacked on Val Louron and I?d managed to stay on his wheel. I think Moreau was surprised that I could do what I did, I mean, I?m just a first year pro.?

Martin knew all the climbs bar the last from holidays in the region with his parents and says that more than the climbing, in which he felt fairly comfortable, the biggest problems was the heat.

?I must have got through at least 20 bottles. We were putting ice down our jerseys to try and keep the core temperatures down.?

Now with a lead of almost two minutes, he?s guardedly optimistic about taking his chances in the race overall, saying that ?I?ll be a lot happier when we?re over the final climb 20 kilometres from the finish on Sunday?s stage.?

?But we?ve got a great team here and morale is really high. I?m feeling a lot of pressure, having the leader?s jersey is a tough situation for a neo-pro like me. ?

?It?s mission nearly accomplished. I?ve just got to hang on and try and stay upright.?


Martin takes lead in Route du Sud

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Founded in 1891, Cycling Weekly and its team of expert journalists brings cyclists in-depth reviews, extensive coverage of both professional and domestic racing, as well as fitness advice and 'brew a cuppa and put your feet up' features. Cycling Weekly serves its audience across a range of platforms, from good old-fashioned print to online journalism, and video.