When it became clear race leader Primož Roglič (TJV) wouldn’t start the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, teams knew the race would explode. Anything could happen, and fortune would favor the bold. Dani Martínez and the rest of the EF Pro Cycling team rode accordingly, and after a truly magnificent day of racing, it was Martínez who pulled on the final yellow jersey and was the overall winner.
The Dauphiné is typically filled with last-minute drama and surprises. Today was no exception when a number of strong riders dropped out before the fifth and final stage. In addition to Roglič, Egan Bernal (INS) also withdrew ahead of yesterday’s stage citing a back injury, and Steven Kruijswijk (TJV) dropped out after dislocating his shoulder in a crash on stage 4.
The absence of Roglič from stage 5 moved France’s Thibaut Pinot (GFC) into the overall lead on the final day, which moved Martínez into 4th place in the general classification. Martínez, who held onto his white jersey for two days in a row, was confident. “I finished feeling in good shape and I hope that tomorrow will be another good stage,” Martínez said yesterday. And what a stage it was.
The stage served the riders myriad climbs throughout 153.5 kilometres in the beautiful French terrain. It featured eight classified climbs, including the Hors Catégorie Col de Romme and Col de la Colombiere. The beginning featured two ascents of the Côte de Domancy while a dozen riders broke away with a small advantage over the rest of the group. As they made their way on the Domancy and on one of few flat roads the stage offered, the lead group distanced themselves by only 15 seconds over the rest of the peloton toward the Col de Romme. Martínez was missing from this group as the breakaway increased, and the now 15 escapees made their way along the valley.
The front group eventually expanded to 23 riders on the descent of the Col de Romme, which soon included Martínez and Hugh Carthy, who were able to bridge. Pavel Sivakov and Julian Alaphilippe eventually broke away from the rest, but still with Hugh and Dani in the group of riders chasing behind. Hugh Carthy eventually dropped back, while Martínez continued chasing Alaphilippe and Sivakov, who were leading on the descent off the Col de la Colombière.
The situation changed quickly when Martínez became the race leader on the road up the ascent of the Côte de Domancy as he closed the gap on the leaders. Dani had 6 seconds on Miguel Angel Lopez and looked calm and strong as he eventually increased the distance between them to 30 seconds.
Lopez was looking like his only other competition for the general classification before the riders reached the final climb. With 7.3 kilometres to go, Pinot looked strong as he shortened the gap between him and Martínez and Lopez. Pinot eventually passed Lopez and moved to 2nd place, and was 22 seconds behind Martínez with 5.8 kilometres to go. And then with 1.5 kilometres left, Martínez had only 12 seconds on Pinot, and it was constantly in flux as Pinot kept attacking. Martínez responded and changed the tempo when he stamped hard on the pedals with 1 km to go. Sepp Kuss won the stage, but it was Martínez who crossed the line 2nd and won the general classification in this grueling and thrilling race. The Dauphiné victory marks the second time the EF Pro Cycling outfit has won the race in daring fashion, with Andrew Talansky also taking the GC via last-day heroics and tactical nuance in 2014
What the team had to say…
Dani Martínez – rider
It’s one of the most amazing days of my life, it’s one of the most important races and I’m just so happy to have achieved it. I’m still so tired from the race and still can’t quite believe that it’s happened. It’s incredible, the last race we raced was in Colombia and we won and then we’ve won here today too at the Dauphiné.
Without doubt I want to say that this race is for all my family and my little boy, this win is for them. This is for all the people who have believed in me and the ones who have helped support me for me to be able to arrive at this point.
This week everyone has worked really hard, we’ve had hard times like with Sergio’s crash, but the whole team has really helped me, Rigo, Hugh, all of them they’ve been amazing. And also to EF, who supports this team. This victory is for them and their staff across the world, too!
Jonathan Vaughters, team CEO
When we signed Dani in 2018 off a pro-continental team, it’s fair to say he’d been overlooked. That happens all the time in this sport. But Rigo recommended him to me, and he believed in Dani. And after a few years of working together it’s clear it was a chance worth taking. Dani put in the hard yards to get himself to this level, and his style suits this team perfectly. I couldn’t be happier for him and for the entire team — notably our Colombian contingent of riders and fans.
Dani won that race with tactical nous and style — similar to the way this team won the Dauphiné in 2014 with Andrew Talansky. Both those victories were unexpected, dazzling rides that showed not only strength but smarts. It’s so indicative of who we are as an organization: we’re not the powerhouse team, but we find talent and we race with conviction. It’s who we are, and it was really clear on the roads today. It brings a huge smile to my face.
This has been a really strange season, and a really hard time for so many people. For us, this one goes out to EF and those who support us when the chips are down. Today shows the kind of team we really are, and I’m just grateful to have EF in our corner. We’ll celebrate this one properly, and see you at the Tour.
Charly Wegelius – Sport Director
It goes without saying it was an intensive day. When we heard Roglič wasn’t starting, we knew that it was going to be a day that the race could be turned upside down. The move in the beginning was a little on the backfoot, and the team really stepped up there and laid it down for Dani. From there, it was trying to manage the rivals and manage the energy that we had. Dani was absolutely on top of his game. He really held his nerve and didn’t crack. It’s really nice to get a win like this for the whole group because everybody worked really hard to come back for these races.
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