Dan Martin is not a pretty sight in full flight. His is not the liquid pedal stroke of a Richard Carapaz or the stock-still serenity of Primoz Roglic. He is violence. In early effort he nods, and wrangles, and bends the bike to his will. In deep, ragged attack he is twisted and gnarly. Rictus faced and jerk-bodied.
This, Stage 3, was a rugged Galician schlepp. Broken up by a pair of categorized climbs it was uphill almost from flag to line. And ordered, for much of it. A four man break clear, a peloton in hot pursuit, and an eight-kilometre climb to a summit finish at Laguna Negra.
The run-in to the climb was a narrow, forested affair. Wet roads, clouds hanging in the air, the dank waft of moss and bark palpable through our TV screens. The peloton caught the break at the base and we knew what would come.Embed from Getty Images
The big teams – Ineos, Jumbo-Visma – would come to the fore and ratchet up the pace. As the climb steepened towards the summit the field would whittle and wane in size. Sepp Kuss would be visible, like the strongest man in the world, taking one breath to everyone else’s two.
In the final two kilometres the sniping attacks came. Random riders – a Kenny Elissonde here, a Clement Champoussin there – making bold moves before dying gloriously. In the end, we would be left with our cast of big names.
Vlasov, Mas, Grosschartner and Carthy hovered, and hung in, before Dan Martin unleashed himself. Timing his move from two hundred metres out, like some kind of frenzied animal catching a sniff of raw meat, he launched down the left with a move of horrible effectiveness.Embed from Getty Images
The Green points Jersey across his back, clashing horribly with the blue of his Israel kit, as if to frame the moment, he dug and scrabbled his way to the line to win, gloriously, from Red Jersey Roglic and Polka-Dotted Carapaz.
A huge win.
Followed by tears, and humanity, and the huge warmth of the greatest Irish-Brummie pro cyclist the peloton has surely ever seen.
(Top Image: …some guy, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)