After the relative snooze that stage 15 was compared to the previous day’s GC shenanigans – sorry Giulio, your win was epic, but have a word with your GC pals – there’s one question that we need answering: what on earth is Guillaume Martin up to?
The Cofidis man was up to some familiar antics on the first Alpine stage of this year’s Giro. With the breakaway fighting over stage honours, Ineos Grenadiers had the peloton on lockdown. But with about 45 km left to race, Martin made the most steady and unassuming acceleration from way down the bunch and slipped away. No one so much as flinched.
With the peloton chugging away behind him, Martin hopped from one group of dropped breakaway riders to the next, slowly but surely taking back time. Ultimately, the Frenchman finished 10th on the stage, but more importantly he gained 1:42 and earned himself a top-10 ticket for the final week of the Giro.
“Today, I think I mostly wanted to have fun, unlike yesterday,” Martin said after the stage. “If there wasn’t the rest day tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t have attacked. I had the opening and I took advantage of it. It allows me to get back time tonight.
“Yesterday I was worried about my condition, but I was reassured that I felt better today. The last week will be rather mountainous, I hope to do beautiful things again. It will probably be complicated to take back much time without being in a breakaway, but there could be failures. I’ll go my way and we’ll see.”
Martin has been slipping and sliding, as is his wont, since stage 4’s unforgiving finish up Etna. He found himself on the backfoot after losing over four minutes to new race leader Juanpe López (Trek-Segafredo) – it’s worth noting that different riders though they are, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana-Qazaqstan) finished after Martin on the volcano and has been steadily climbing the overall rankings ever since.
However, the peloton’s philosopher was unbowed. A few days later, he slipped into the successful move that would fight for stage victory on the electric stage 8, vaulting up to fourth. It was a defiant and familiar performance from Martin, who did similar at last year’s Tour de France, earning him the nickname, the ‘yo-yo’.
This perhaps not altogether flattering moniker has been repeated many times by commentators in the Giro’s second week. After limiting his losses on Blockhaus, Martin was one of Bora-Hansgrohe’s many victims on stage 14, missing the decisive move and slipping to 12th overall.
It would be fair to assume that at this point, and with many of the worst mountains yet to come, a rider in Martin’s position might be best-served by deliberately shedding time and going after a stage win. But with his long-range rampage on Sunday’s Alpine stage, Martin has laid bare his number-one objective to grab another top-10 finish.
Why? One thought is UCI points which no one can stop talking about, but we’d like to think the more likely goal is that a top-10 at the Giro would continue his streak of Grand Tour finishes – eighth at the 2021 Tour, ninth at the 2021 Vuelta, and…
Currently he sits just shy of four minutes behind ninth-place López, while Movistar’s best-placed rider Alejandro Valverde trails the Frenchman by 1:04. There is a small number of others within a couple of minutes, but with teammates near the top of the overall standings, they’re less of a threat.
One prediction for what is sure to be an action-packed final week: where Valverde goes, Martin will follow.