Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) on the attack during stage 14 of the Tour de France.

Guillaume Martin ‘just wanted to race to the finish as quick as possible’

Attack is the best for of defence for Guillaume Martin who moves up to second overall.

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Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) was one of the instigators of the decisive attack that came after almost 100 km of racing on stage 14. He wasn’t able to contest the win, but his aggressive approach to the 2021 Tour de France continues to pay off and he now sits second overall.

“I used a lot of energy to be honest. I finished pretty empty,” Martin said after the stage. “I felt the heat a lot, there’s a lot of salt on my jersey. I’ll try to recover. I think I’ll lose a bit of time tomorrow but hopefully not too much and we’ll see what I can target.”

The French master of philosophy – and possibly a vampire – finished 11th overall in 2020, but he came into the 2021 Tour de France targeting stage wins. Stage 14 from Carcassonne to Quillan was one of the routes he studied before the race.

“When I attacked on the Col de Montségur, I knew exactly where to go and what was coming after,” he said of his attack on the second categorised climb of the day. “I knew it was an up and down route that would be good for a breakaway.”

That said, the 28-year-old knew that the profile was better suited to punchier riders than the kind of pure climber he is.

“I knew from the beginning that it would be hard to target the stage win because it was a flat finish and it’s always really tactical,” Martin said. “And to be honest I didn’t have super good legs, so I didn’t have any illusions, I just wanted to race to the finish line as quick as possible.”

Martin struggled to hold the pace on the final Cat 2 climb, dropping out of the chasing group that trailed Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) by over a minute. Even so, he held on for 11th, 1:28 behind the stage winner, and more importantly, he put 5:25 into the GC group which makes him the only rider within five minutes of Tadej Pogačar. 

With Saturday’s combative ride, he is now in a very similar position to Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroën) whose stage 9 victory propelled him onto the GC podium. Unfortunately, O’Connor dropped back down to fifth after struggling on stage 11’s double assault of Ventoux, but if the precedent is anything to go by, there’s no reason to suggest that Martin can’t maintain his top 10 standing.

The next big GC test comes as soon as stage 15 which takes the race to Andorra and into the mountains proper, where Martin will be under pressure to stick with the favourites.

“Hopefully I can recover for tomorrow,” Martin said. “When a selection like that [on stage 14] gets to the line, it’s hard to win, but today was still a good day. It was in keeping with the aggressive approach we’ve had to this race.”

Martin also went on the attack on stages 8 and 9, quietly climbing into the top 10 overall with eighth and fourth respectively. He’d started the Alpine weekend 30th overall at 8:25.

“It’s the Tour, and it’s normally ridden on the defensive, but this year, I really wanted to race on the offensive like I wanted. Today it went well. I hope I don’t pay for it tomorrow, but I’m happy with how it went.”

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