Etixx-QuickStep directeur sportif Brian Holm has commented on the GC chances of team climber Dan Martin, making it clear that he wants a big general classification performance in the Tour de France.
Martin was one of the strongest of the GC riders on Wednesday’s fifth stage, accelerating at the end and chasing Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), who was the first to surge. While he didn’t get up to Rodriguez, who clocked up fourth on the stage behind the three riders who had been in the break, Martin took fifth.
It was a continuation of the strong finishing kicks he had show in the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“For sure I put a lot of pressure on Dan,” Holm told CyclingTips. “If he is not going to finish top ten I will cut off his ears. I promise. He is going to be top ten, or I will be very angry.”
Holm was smiling when he said the comment, but the subtext was clear: after three participations, including a stage win in 2013 but a best overall finish of 33rd, it is time for the Irishman to step up a level in the Tour.
Third overall in the Dauphinê, Martin took fourth place on stage two of the Tour and is now 10th overall behind the new race leader Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team).
“The first mountain stage is a little bit of a shock to everybody, and today it was even more difficult because of the scorching heat which made the road melt in some places,” the Irishman said. “It felt like you were riding through glue all day long.
“It was a difficult start to the Tour de France and nobody had the legs to attack on Wednesday, because people are already tired after just a couple of days and 18 hours in the saddle. The team rode well together and I am confident for the mountain stages which will come later in the week.”
Teammate Julian Alaphilippe started the day second overall behind Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and with the Slovakian almost certain to be dropped on the climbs, he was seen by many as one who could take over at the top. The day’s break gained sufficient time to stay clear, however, giving the jersey to winner Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team).
Behind, Alaphillipe suffered on the climbs and looked at one point to be on the verge of losing contact and, possibly, his white jersey as best young rider. However he rallied towards the end and was actually very quick on the short final climb up to the line, netting fourth out of that group for a stage placing of seventh.
He remains second, but is now five minutes 11 seconds behind Van Avermaet. He also maintains his grip on white.
“Today we knew that we will face many attacks from the start and that there was a good chance for a break to go all the way to the line,” the Frenchman said. “In the final 35 kilometres, Movistar made the pack’s life difficult, trying to test the other riders, and it wasn’t easy to keep the pace. But I handled this situation well and now I’m happy and very proud of keeping the white jersey.”
Holm said that the team wouldn’t agonise over the missed chance to wear the Maillot Jaune. “Of course, if and if and if…we could continue quite long about that, about taking yellow,” he said.
“But what Movistar did today [was impressive]. Suddenly they started riding and bridging like nine minutes in quite a short time. They did a good time, Movistar.
“We are happy. We are a Belgian team, QuickStep. We are normally best on the cobblestones so having two riders in the top 25 here is something new for us [Alaphilippe and Martin are actually second and 10th overall]. We are happy. We’ve the white jersey and Dan. No, we don’t really complain.”
Martin won’t complain either, providing he finishes the race with his ears in place.