Out from the chaos at the base of the Mur de Bretagne popped Dan Martin, and a reminder that cycling is a team sport, even if that team isn’t always your own.
Dan Martin used to ride for QuickStep, remember? Disco Dan, that team called him, and still does. It seems the split was amicable. Brian Holm, QuickStep’s dapper director sportive stood outside his team bus after Martin’s win atop the Mur de Bretagne stage and described a conversation he had with Martin that morning:
“We know he’s won here before. I said, ‘Just stay with our guys, maybe we can work together,’” Holm said. “I told him to speak with [Philippe] Gilbert, and Bob [Jungels].”
It wasn’t a full-on leadout, or even any specific plan, Holm said. Just an offer of a helping hand, should he need it, and an invitation to sit on the most powerful leadout in cycling.
Cycling runs on such low-level dealmaking. Directors are in frequent contact before, during, and after stages, and riders talk among themselves even more frequently. When QuickStep split the pack in crosswinds mid-stage Martin was on the wrong end of the gap and there was no waiting. But the helicopter shot shows him tucked in behind the Gilbert, Julian Alaphilippe, and Jungels in the final kilometers.
In a race that can feel quite cutthroat — there are no friends in the Tour de France, not really — it was a nice little reminder of the camaraderie that can always be found somewhere in the peloton.
“I said this morning he would win, and so he did,” Holm said. “Of course, would have been sort of nicer with Gilbert. But it didn’t work out quite that way, so everyone is happy for the famous Disco Dan.”
Disco Dan now sits in 21st, 1’27 back on Greg van Avermaet. His goal of a stage win is checked off, and attention will turn fully to the general classification.
“Everything that happens from now on is a bonus,” Martin said in his post-race press conference. “It is not unexpected, but it is a nice bonus. We have a big goal for this Tour — see how far we can go in the general classification. We will just keep plugging away and see what happens.”
Martin finished 6th overall at last year’s Tour, despite fighting through injuries sustained in the crash that sent Richie Porte out of the race.
Historically, the Mur de Bretagne has been a surprisingly solid indicator of GC form, despite its short length. The best recent example came in 2011, when Cadel Evans pipped an already-celebrating Alberto Contador at the line. That moment was a sign of things to come. Evans fought on to win Australia’s first yellow jersey two and a half weeks later.
Martin’s competitors noted the Irishman’s form.
“Fair play to Dan Martin,” said Geraint Thomas. “When I went, I tried to go out, but when I saw everyone was on me, Dan was super strong to hold like he did.”
Holm knows Martin. He knows him as an athlete and as a man. So what did he make of the victory? It was an early attack, before even the red kite at 1km to go. No sneaky business, just brute strength. Is it a sign of form?
“This could be a combination, couldn’t it,” Holm said. “Dan, he can always do those climbs. But he always attacked a bit too early. Today I thought it was a bit too early again, but I was wrong. It was nice, eh?”