Points classification leader Marcel Kittel is forced to abandon after early crash.
24 hours after losing ground in the crosswinds, Daniel Martin gritted his teeth and went to the attack on the mythical Col du Galibier, the most featured Alpine climb in the Tour de France history, which this year was crossed for the 60th time. Lying in seventh place at the start of the day, the Irishman surged clear seven kilometers from the top of Galibier and managed to put pressure on the yellow jersey group, which got stretched out and thinned down by the meter.
Dan was caught with around five kilometers to go to the summit, but continued to ride with panache and push a hard tempo at the front of the group sensing that some of his opponents weren't having the best of times on the 7% gradients of the HC climb. His efforts paid off when Simon Yates (Orica-Scott), sixth in the overall standings, got dropped long before the top and lost more than a minute by the end of the day.
On the long descent to Serre Chevalier, which returned to the race after 24 years, four riders got a gap and fought for the remaining places on the podium, behind solo winner Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo). Dan Martin led home the chasing group half a minute later and concluded the stage in seventh place, for another strong top-10 finish at this edition, after a day that delivered over 4000 meters of vertical gain.
"I attacked because I wanted to test my rivals. I didn't go too deep, but this doesn't mean I wasn't tired. Actually, everybody's tired 17 days into the race, so this is turning more into a mental battle. I'm glad we left this stage behind and I got to jump one place in the GC", said Dan, who also explained why he lost time on the descent. "Contador was in front of me and missed a corner, leaving a gap to the others, so that was that. It's already in the past and now my focus is on the Col d'Izoard, tomorrow. The war of attrition will continue there and Disco Dan is ready to dance!"
The day wasn't a perfect one for Quick-Step Floors, as Marcel Kittel had to withdraw from the race after being caught up in a crash which saw him hit the ground 20 kilometers into the stage. Winner of five stages, a remarkable performance which only a few riders have achieved in the entire history of the Tour de France, the German tried to continue, but the pain, illness and the tough gradients of Col de la Croix de Fer eventually took their toll on him.
"I am very disappointed and I don't know how to describe my feelings at the moment. To go home with five stage victories is great, but to go home because of a crash and before hitting Paris is a major disappointment", said Marcel, who was leading the green jersey classification at the time he had to wave goodbye to the race.
"I couldn't do anything to avoid that crash and lost some skin on my shoulder, back, elbow and hip, which are a bit swollen. I tried to carry on, but pedaling was just painful, especially as in the last couple of days I had to fight with stomach problems and a cold. Now I will take some time to recover before returning to racing and I'm confident the joy of winning five stages at the Tour de France will help me overcome these difficult moments", concluded Kittel, the most successful rider of the season in terms of victories, with 14 (seven of which came in the World Tour) to his name.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele