Dan Martin put Israel Start-Up Nation right in the mix on stage 18 of the Tour de France with an impressive effort on the final climb to Luz Ardiden where he took fifth place on the day.
With only two flat stages and a time trial remaining of this year’s Tour, today’s stage was the last opportunity for the climbers to put their mark on the race. Many tried to escape at the beginning of the stage but it wasn’t until the peloton took on the iconic Col du Tourmalet that a few riders managed to get away.
However, despite several breakaway attempts, it all came down to a fight between the GC riders on the steep slopes of Luz Ardiden. Determined to put on a strong performance on this final day in the mountains, Martin hung on to the group of favorites until the leading rider, Tadej Pogačar UAE Team Emirates) put in his expected attack on the last 3 km.
Keeping his own pace, Martin minimized the gaps as much as possible before putting in a final acceleration on the last kilometer trying to make it all the way back to the front. Ultimately, the Irishman crossed the line in fifth place, just 24 seconds down on Pogačar who took the win and increased his lead in the general classification.
Dan Martin: “I’m glad that I got to show the real me on the final day in the mountains. I wasn’t really sure how my legs would be after not feeling great the last couple of days, so I decided just to sit back and get as much draft as possible as the final climb was really fast. That way I could also see how the other guys were doing, if they were fading or looking good or not. Every time somebody would let the wheel go a little bit, I just jumped over them. I was actually a bit a surprised of how it went and as we got closer to the finish, I started to think that maybe I could go for the stage.
“When the group split, I was staying with O’Connor and Kelderman for a bit as they were pacing for their GC spots. At one point, I felt that they started to tire so I jumped away from them and tried to close the gap to the front group. Without the hard tempo from Sepp Kuss maybe I would have had a chance to come back. Regardless, it was really nice to feel like myself again on the climbs today and show my true colors for one of the first times in this race.”