Garmin-Sharp promised to cause chaos in the Tour de France and they duly delivered on Sunday as they showed that Team Sky were not the only team with a plan.
The US’ Tom Danielson, Britain’s David Millar, Canadian Ryder Hesjedal and Irishman Dan Martin, who went on to win the ninth stage, attacked in quick succession before the day’s first climb, blowing the stage open and isolating overall leader Chris Froome from his Sky teammates.
“We were attacking without thinking about it, it was crazy,” Martin told a news conference after the 168.5km from St Girons. “We wanted to make the race exciting. We enjoy bike riding, we wanted to put on a show for people at home.”
Garmin-Sharp’s laid-back attitude is in sharp contrast with Team Sky’s clinical approach, but on Sunday they had a strategy.
“This stage was a bit of an objective for us since the start in Corsica and even after having lost Christian Vande Velde,” Martin said, referring to the crash on stage seven that ruled his teammate out of the Tour. “It was a stage that suited us. With the team we have we can afford to be aggressive.”
Martin is a decent climber, just like Danielson and Hesjedal, and they stuck to manager Jonathan Vaughters’ plan to “cause chaos” in the race.
“Craziest thing about today? We planned it,” Millar said.
“I put a lot of pressure on today. It was the day I pointed to from a week ago as the day we could define our Tour de France,” Vaughters added. “Amazing how they responded.”
Martin was the only Garmin-Sharp rider who managed to stay in the lead group, meaning it was his task to capitalize on the strong work of his team.
“I had enough legs to attack in the last climb so when I saw there was a bit of hesitation in the group I told myself there was no reason why I shouldn’t attack,” said Martin, who speaks fluent French having spent his amateur years with local club VC La Pomme in Marseille.
Martin, the first Irishman to win a Tour stage since his uncle Stephen Roche in 1992, is now eighth overall, 2 minutes 28 seconds behind Froome, and can target a podium finish in Paris.
“The GC [general classification] is something that happens by being consistent,” he said. “Maybe I’m going to start thinking about it.”