More importantly, the Irishman’s team finished within a minute on Team Ineos’s duel leaders Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal. Martin now sits at 43 seconds to the pair overall. For comparison, Martin was at 1-35 to Thomas after the Tour’s stage three 35.5km team time trial in Cholet last year. He never really recovered from there, falling to 9-05 and eighth place in the final general classification.
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The UAE team in this year’s Tour doesn’t look significantly stronger than last year’s squad, with Martin saying he had a huge amount of opportunity to train with the likes of Alexander Kristoff with such different year round programmes. Likewise Fabio Aru has been absent for much of the year after taking a break for surgery, returning to WorldTour action only last month at the Tour de Suisse.
Martin puts the improvement down to a better team atmosphere though, with the team perhaps more relaxed than at last year’s race.
“It’s a strange word to use but it felt easy, nobody was surging there were no egos out there we were just working well as a team,” Martin said immediately following the team time trial.
“We’ve got a great atmosphere this year, we’re having a good laugh at dinner every night and the atmosphere’s very, very relaxed and hopefully it’ll continue like that.
“Because we’re all on different race programmes and stuff it’s difficult to find the time to work together and it’s the first time we’ve done a team time trial in race conditions together so I think we did a good performance.
“We just wanted to stay conservative, didn’t want to take risks and I think we did that. We got the maximum out of ourselves and we have to be happy.”
Martin will now focus on the coming mountain stages, starting with stage six’s finish to La Planche des Belles Filles, to try and make back the time he lost today, but will also need to get through the stage 13 individual time trial without big losses.
Despite the team time trial improvement, he’ll still face a tough task in overhauling the gap to the Ineos riders, while Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) is the best placed GC rider at just 10 seconds down on his team-mate and race leader Mike Teunissen.
“In my head I had less than a minute as a really good ride,” Martin added. “I think we lost 1-20 last year; it’s a slightly shorter course [this year]. Obviously we’re not as well drilled as a team like Ineos, so it shows everyone’s in good condition.
“So we’re happy to get around safe, we’re not going to be too far behind the best times, so I think we showed a good improvement on last year.”