Part of a young crop of Colombian talent shaping the narrative of the still-young season, Dani Martinez has managed to fly under the radar – until today.
The 22-year-old took his third victory of the season on Saturday, and the biggest of his flourishing career. In the final kilometer of the queen stage of Paris-Nice, Martinez rode compatriot Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) off his wheel to win atop Col du Turini.
“I am very excited about this victory,” said Martinez. “It’s a special day for me. Paris-Nice is one of the great races in the world.”
The seventh stage of the Paris-Nice covered 181 kilometers between Nice and the race’s eventual finish at the top of Col de Turini. Despite its popularity with Monaco- and Nice-based professional cyclists, the Col de Turini, 14.9-kilometers long with an average gradient of 7.3%, is a new inclusion in Paris-Nice. The summit finish was the sixth climb of the mountainous day.
A group of 39 riders split off from the peloton on the Côte de Gourdon, the stages second categorized climb. Martinez represented EF Education First Pro Cycling in the selection. With the best-placed rider more than two minutes down on the general classification, the breakaway’s chances looked promising.
“Dani and the whole group were highly motivated to confirm the excellent results of the TT also in the mountains,” said head sport director Charley Wegelius. “The size and make up of the big break that formed were ideal for him.“
Thirty kilometers from the finish, the breakaway maintained a six-minute advantage over the peloton.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) and Lopez were the first to launch attacks on the lower slopes of the Col de Turini. Martinez marked the moves as the breakaway group exploded in his wake. Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) joined the party up front, making it a four-man fight for glory.
An uneasy cooperation between the leading quartet gave way to a round of attacks with the finish line looming. All four frontrunners spent brief stints of time alone up front at various points in the final five kilometers.
“I was controlling Lopez and Yates,” said Martinez. “I didn’t want them to surprise me.”
“It was a tough fight,” said EF Education First CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “Dani was tactically very astute. His ride was gutsy.”
Martinez upped the pace under the flamme rouge, drawing out Lopez as Yates and Edet were distanced. Lopez rode back to Martinez’s wheel only to fall off the pace again at the 500-meter mark. Although Lopez was able to claw his way back once more, Martinez powered away again in the final 100 meters, crossing the finish four-seconds ahead of Lopez.
“I was tired, but I gave everything I had left in the last kilometer,” said Martinez. “I was more afraid that Simon Yates would return because he won the time trial and is in great form.”
“Dani managed his energy and his nerves perfectly all day,” said Wegelius. “In the end, he showed his class with a great win.”
Martinez’s victory is the sixth for EF Education First this season and the third for Martinez, who won the Colombian national time trial title and was part of the Tour of Colombia team time trial victory.
“The win was highly deserved for all the riders and staff,” said Wegelius. “It was a true team effort today.”
Paris-Nice concludes with a short, sharp stage on Sunday. The 110-kilometer route covers five categorized climbs before a steep drop into Nice. Identical to last season’s Paris-Nice finale, Sunday’s stage eight should deliver drama and excitement.
EF Education First Pro Cycling