“Every day you learn something new and take it forward to further races.”
– Dani Martinez
Dani Martinez stood on the Tour Colombia 2.1 podium atop Alto de las Palmas, Colombia on Sunday. The 22-year-old rode a bold race with the full support from his strong team, including his childhood hero . The result? Third overall. Rigoberto Uran
“It’s been a week where I’ve learned a lot about my performance,” said Martinez. “Every day you learn something new and take it forward to further races.”
Martinez, the newly crowned Colombian time trial champion, spearheaded EF Education First’s winning efforts during the team time trial. The result laid the foundation for the work that followed with Martinez riding a particularly gutsy race on stage five that put him only eight seconds out of the race lead.
“We saw Martinez confirm his development this week,” said sport director Juanma Garate. “More than his development, we saw him confirm his potential. He will be a top, top rider.”
The energy Martinez expended on Saturday cost him in the closing kilometers on Sunday as the race was being decided up Las Palmas, the 15 kilometer summit finish. Uran proved stronger than Martinez but Garate had Uran hold back in the hopes of preserving Martinez’s overall podium position.
“It was incredible for Rigo to have waited for me today,” said Martinez. “This is something that really means a lot to me. He’s a brilliant rider and leader who has won so many races and for him to wait for me makes me feel quite emotional.”
Uran and Martinez crossed the finish line side-by-side in fifth and sixth place, around a minute down on stage winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Mission accomplished. Martinez kept his podium spot.
The young Colombian was joined on the podium by all his EF Education First teammates as they collected the team classification prize.
“Winning the team general classification is always a great award,” said Lawson Craddock. “So often the sport is represented by one rider on top of the podium. When you can take the team GC and bring everyone up there to share the success, that’s always pretty special.”
Nearly nine thousand kilometers away and four hours before Martinez graced the podium, Simon Clarke collected awards and accolades of his own. The Australian, also tasked with a leadership role, rode a smart and strategic race at Tour de la Provence en route to second overall.
EF Education First team management asked Clarke to arrive in France with the fitness required to contend for the general classification. He was happy to oblige. Clarke regularly rides in support of his teammates or in a road captain role. He embraced the opportunity to race as team leader, coming away with second overall, tied on time with race winner Gorka Izagirre (Astana).
“I did a lot of preparation at home to make sure my condition was good coming into this race,” Clarke said.
The stage race began with an opening stage time trial in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. It was the only stage during the four-day race that Clarke finished outside the top five. After coming fourth on stages two and three, Clarke realized he had a real shot to stand on the top step of the podium in Aix-en-Provence on Sunday.
“It was a good race for me because all the stages suited me quite well,” Clarke said. “It all came down to tactics in the sprints for the time bonuses available in the intermediate sprints and on the finish line.”
Clarke began stage four in fourth overall, eight seconds off the race lead. He finished in second place on the stage and picked up enough bonus seconds to jump up to second overall.
“I didn’t have high expectations today because the stage suited me the least of the road stages this week, but considering my position overall and the seconds on offer, we approached the day with same mentality as the other days,” said Clarke. “We took every opportunity possible. This actually worked out better than we expected. I picked up second in the intermediate sprint and second at the finish.
“The team has been great for me this week,” Clarke added. “Quite often I find myself in a supporting role. To have the support of my teammates this week was very special.”
Read more about a very exciting Tour Colombia 2.1 here.