Dan Martin toasts a special Irish success
Dan Martin followed in his uncle's footsteps as he became the first Irish winner of a Tour de France stage since Stephen Roche in 1992.
The Garmin-Sharp rider beat Astana's Jakob Fuglsang to the line in Bagneres-de-Bigorre yesterday after the pair had attacked off the front, five kilometres from the top of the final climb of the day, and then stayed ahead down the long descent into town.
Birmingham-born Martin (26) became only the fifth Irishman to win a Tour stage, and the first since his uncle's victory on stage 16 of the 1992 Tour in La Bourboule. "Every win is important and special in its own way. It was such an incredible day because this team shows such a team spirit. Everyone gave 100 per cent today," he said.
Martin and Fuglsang made their move as the main contenders at the front of the race were engaged in an absorbing game of cat and mouse, with Chris Froome anxiously – and successfully – defending his yellow jersey against the likes of Alejandro Valverde and Alberto Contador.
Although Fuglsang led the pair into town, Martin was close behind and, after some nervous glances, he kicked out 250 metres from the line and Fuglsang couldn't answer.
"It's hard to describe how it feels; it's more relief actually because I knew I was the favourite coming into the sprint... but I still had to do it," he added.
"To come across the line knowing that I've won a stage of the Tour de France is amazing. In the end, the scale of the event wasn't on my mind – it was just another bike race."
While this was his first taste of Tour success, it was not his first in a Grand Tour as he won stage nine of the Vuelta a Espana in 2011, and he called on that experience yesterday.
"I've always had that sort of calmness, when I won the stage of the Vuelta it was much the same sort of feeling. In the big situations I seem to be able to relax and just be in control and it pays off," he explained.
Martin was mentioned as an outside contender for this year's mountainous Tour thanks to his climbing ability and a proud uncle – who won the Tour in 1987 – tipped him for future success.