He defeated Pogacar and dragged Bernal: why ‘Dani’ Martinez should be INEOS’ Tour de France leader

Dani (Martinez) and (Adam) Yates become our two leaders in the TourThese words from Geraint Thomas, reported by CyclingWeekly, did not go unnoticed this week. They put an end to the semblance of tension that has reigned over the question of leadership within the INEOS Grenadiers formation on the roads of the next Tour de France, After Egan Bernal’s injury, scheduled for the Giro, Richard Carapaz is sticking to his original schedule and will therefore let the Colombian and Briton try to get the British squad back at the top of the Grande Boucle. Daniel Felipe Martinez’s candidacy has been so obvious for a year that it is gaining weight again in the Basque Country.

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It’s getting stronger

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Joining Yates and an INEOS Grenadiers formation that could well resemble July’s, the Colombian has once again demonstrated why the British team went for him in the 2020-2021 off-season. Unveiled at the 2018 Tour of Catalonia (7th), winner under special circumstances (leader Roglic had not taken the start of the last stage) of the 2020 Dauphiné, Martinez has taken a step forward since his time at INEOS Grenadiers, especially this season ( 3rd in the Tour of Algarve and Paris-Nice), proves to be very regular. Above all, it gives the impression of getting stronger race after race, stage after stage. We saw it again on this Tour of the Basque Country. For a long time it was believed that the leader of the British formation was Adam Yates, mainly because he had drawn a better prologue than his teammate (5th against 11th). But the truth of the scary Basque slopes was quite different.

Alaphilippe still defeated, by nothing: Martinez’s victory in video

Caught in Mallabia on Friday, Yates, on the other hand, completely lost his footing (he even gave up) on Saturday in the ascent of Krabelin, an unexpected scenario that had already played out in much smaller dimensions at Paris-Nice (4th in the end but on the background in the mountains). Quite the opposite of a Martinez, not necessarily from the air, in style as in fact, but clearly above his British team-mate. Today Martinez seems stronger than ever, calmer too, more confident as Adam Yates leaves the impression that he missed the boat last year when he appeared to be at the best level of his career. July is still a long way off, but the momentum is clearly in favor of the Colombian.

He has the perfect Tour winner profile

We know: to win the Tour de France, you must not only know how to climb, but also be complete and regular. Here again two characteristics that stay with Daniel Felipe Martinez much more than with Adam Yates. Transformed into solitary practice since his arrival at INEOS Grenadiers, the Briton remains much more comfortable in short times (like the Basque Country prologue) than over a long distance like the 40km the runners will have to cover on the road to Rocamadour during the next Tour de France.

Daniel Felipe Martinez (INEOS Grenadiers)

Credit: Getty Images

As a chrono specialist, the three-time Colombian champion is a more reliable value, even if he isn’t one of the best in the world either. And it is precisely the reliability that is under discussion. Able to be exceptional like on the mountain street, Adam Yates doesn’t have that regularity that distinguishes a potential Grand Tour winner from a week-long rider. The observation may seem stern for the Briton, 4th in the 2016 Tour and 2021 Vuelta, but it is no less true. His start to the season is further proof of that. Martinez also showed more regularly in the Giro (5th) last year that the third week did not deter him (5 places achieved after the 13th stage).

Martinez remains the last “non-Jumbo” to be Pogacar. beats

It doesn’t matter if it plays the Yates or Martinez card, or even Thomas, Geoghegan Hart or even Bernal as scheduled, INEOS Grenadiers will not show up in Copenhagen with the event favorite. This status is reserved for outgoing double winner Tadej Pogacar, who will be the man to beat. And a good thing, the British formation has one of the last two riders in its ranks to beat the Slovenian in a stage race to win him; it is of course Martinez, on the occasion of his success in the Dauphiné 2020.

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The circumstances of his victory were certainly special, but those that allowed him to avoid Pogacar were not. The Colombian had only been stronger than the Slovenian, who would win his first Tour de France a few weeks later. They have not met since then and Pogacar was only defeated once in a stage race, in the 2021 Tour of the Basque Country, preceded by Jumbo-Visma Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard. As if you have to win in Northern Spain to hope to triumph over the UAE Team Emirates cannibal in July…

A nice nod to the original leader

There would also be a little symbolic side to seeing Daniel Felipe Martinez take the place of Egan Bernal as INEOS Grenadiers leader in the Tour de France. Already because it would remain a Colombian. But the symbol would mainly be due to the fact that the 2019 Tour winner owes a lot to Martinez during his success at the 2021 Giro. Without the latter, his vehement encouragement and his support in the rise of Sega di Ala, it is not certain that Bernal would have won the Giro d’Italia. To see him take the place of leader reserved for his compatriot before he was injured would have strong symbolic value. But it would above all be the result of a real sporting logic.

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