Irishman Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) enjoyed taking “bonus” time on his general classification rivals in Foix after struggling with injury through the Pyrenees.
Martin entered the Tour’s third mountain range hoping merely to defend his position and not lose time as he was still feeling the effect of a high-speed crash last weekend when Richie Porte (BMC Racing) lost control and inadvertently took Martin down with him. Instead after two stages through France’s southern mountains he has gone from being 1-44 off the yellow jersey to 1-32.
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The Quick Step Floors rider put in an aggressive performance in the Tour’s shortest road stage, a 101km jaunt from Saint-Girons to Foix. He led the group of favourites almost all the way up the steep Mur de Péguère before then attacking on the descent to the finish, taking white jersey wearer Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) with him.
Hunched over his bike in exhaustion at the finish he said: “I was just looking for opportunities on the steep climb. Because of my back I can’t really get out of the saddle so I just rode a hard tempo, then nobody can attack. It worked until just before the summit.
“I think it’s mission accomplished for me, gaining time is a huge bonus.”
He added: “I thought they might hesitate and let me go because I’m a bit further down on GC. A few seconds here and there is nice, especially considering my injuries.”
Watch: Tour de France stage 13 highlights
Martin, who had appeared strong in the Tour’s first week before his crash, now looks to be in good shape to challenge for further time in the Alps later next week.
“I’m getting better every day, I feel so much better than yesterday. I’m hoping it’ll continue like that,’ he said.
However, he said he still wasn’t thinking about a specific overall result. “From the start, I never set goals, I just race my bike do my best and then if I’m better than the others I’ll win,” he said.
The stage saw a volley of attacks on the final descent with first one then another of the GC favorites pinging of the front in an effort to weaken or break away from an isolated Fabio Aru (Astana) in the yellow jersey.
Martin and Yates were the only two that were successful in their bid for freedom. However, when asked if he felt there was weakness in the other GC men Martin said: “Today, just a really hard day on the bike you can’t tell. It’s so different to yesterday, it’s just all out all day. I think everybody is going to be happy that’s over.”