The ninth stage of the Tour de France is one of the toughest. Its 165km distance is characterised by a mountainous course, culminating in 5 high climbs.
But Dan Martin was not deterred. The Irish cyclist was caught in a two man sprint with Jakob Fuglsang but emerged the victor of this very tough Pyrenean stage, making him the 5th Irish rider to win a Tour de France stage in its 100 year history.
The last Irish rider to win the ninth stage was Stephen Roche in 1987 – Dan Martin’s uncle.
Stephen Roche has described this as a tough stage, but one which hold great opportunity:
‘I don’t like to see riders waiting for the last climb to attack, it makes racing monotonous. But this stage offers terrain where someone could blow the race apart from a long way out’
Keeping it in the family, Roche’s own nephew blew the race apart this year. ‘Its wonderful that Daniel won here,’ Roche explained, ‘He’s a good guy and he deserves it because he’s really worked hard to get it’.
Like The Wild Geese, for Dan attaining a victory meant championing his own strengths:
‘I was confident in the final stretch because I know I have some speed. I know I had to be ahead in the last two corners and, when I saw that I was, I knew I could win. Luckily I had the legs to finish the job’
But also like The Wild Geese, there was a strong sense of camaraderie in the race. Dan praised the work of his Garmin-Sharp teammates David Miller, Ramunas Navardauskas and Jack Bauer.
‘We’re a bunch of friends in the team rather than teammates, and I think that shows how well we work together. We’re always willing to give everything to help each other win and I think it’s a special team for that’
But it was Dan’s competition that helped ensure his ninth stage victory. The final leg of the stage was neck-and-neck between Dan and Jakob Fuglsand, riding for Astana.
‘I was very lucky to have Jakob with me because he was super strong and we shared the work. We really wanted to destroy the race… luckily I had the legs to finish the job’