'Cycling is not as predictable as people sometimes think' - Dani Martínez and Bora-Hansgrohe are promising more at the Giro d’Italia

The Colombian sits second on GC at the first rest day and, while Tadej Pogačar remains well ahead, Martínez says he will try something in the mountains if the opportunity presents itself

Dani Martínez feels like he has finally arrived. For years he has threatened to come good on his undoubted potential and promised to convert from a mountain domestique and WorldTour stage race winner into a Grand Tour contender. But there have always been obstacles thwarting him, and a few too many unwanted collapses.

But now, he’s delivering. As the Giro d’Italia peloton enjoys its first rest day, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Martínez is second on GC behind Tadej Pogačar of UAE Team Emirates. The latter can rightfully be called a runaway leader, boasting an advantage of almost three minutes to Martínez and his former Ineos Grenadiers teammate Geraint Thomas in third, but he’s not out of sight yet. There are still 12 stages to come.

Martínez is not naive: he does not expect Pogačar to crumble – “he is unbeatable at the moment. He is a phenomenon,” he assessed – but if he does, he’ll be there to pounce, satisfied that finally, for only the second time after he finished fifth and helped Egan Bernal win the 2021 Giro, it’s all coming together in a three-week race for him. “Always the first week of previous Grand Tours have not been the best for me,” the Colombian said. “But this Giro is different. Since Bora signed me last year [from Ineos Grenadiers] they told me I would be coming to the Giro, and you have to take opportunities when they come.”

In the two mountain-top finishes so far – the third one comes on stage 10 – Martínez has finished second behind Pogačar, and he described his form as “pretty strong. The sensations are feeling good, and I have really good legs.” During the stage seven time trial, dressed in a national champion’s skinsuit, he bettered the times of all his rivals except Pogačar. He’s not just a climber, but a complete rider.

“For me it isn’t a surprise,” said the team’s lead sports director Enrico Gasparotto, the man who guided Jai Hindley to victory in the corsa rosa in 2022. “We knew his potential, this is why he is in the team and why he was supposed to be the GC leader at the Giro. He’s sitting second in GC which is the best result we could achieve [until now]. With Tadej Pogačar it’s difficult to do something… [but] we are happy with where we are at the moment.”

Pogačar’s vice-like grip on the race hasn’t shocked Gasparotto, but neither is it concerning him. “We expected he would want to kill the Giro the first week and then control the second and third week. It’s nothing new. Our dream and goal was to be closer to him on the GC, but there’s a long way to Rome. Two weeks is a really long time.”

It is, and it’s one of a few mantras Pogačar’s rivals keep repeating. “In a Grand Tour anything can happen. Geraint Thomas and Max [Schachmann, a teammate of Martínez] crashed yesterday [on stage nine] and Pogačar crashed at the bottom of the climb on stage two,” Gasparotto said. “We will try to be ready if it happens that Tadej suffers or struggles one day, and we will be there and ready to use the opportunity.”

The aforementioned Schachmann, who confirmed he is without injuries following his fall, echoed the sentiment. “Cycling is not as predictable, easy and simple as people sometimes think,” the German said. “Within minutes at the start of a race something can unfold and the stage can be different to what was expected. We have to have a good attitude and stay attentive to grab our chance if we get one.”

Could Bora, Ineos and Decathlon AGR2 La Mondiale, who are fourth with Ben O’Connor, club together to help collectively batter the maglia rosa? “Let’s see if we can have an alliance,” Schachmann teased. “He [Pogačar] has not shown any big weaknesses, not just last week but in the last few years. When there’s a 10% climb, you can have many alliances, but it won’t make him slower or faster. He’s not had too many but he has had bad days, and if we feel like that could happen, not just us but also Ineos will go for it.”

The man who'll exploit it is the 28-year-old bearded Colombian, who, at the race’s halfway juncture, is on track for a maiden Grand Tour podium but dreaming of so much more. “If I feel good I will try to attack Pogačar,” Martínez promised. “I want to do my best in this Giro. The last week in the Dolomites is hard, and if I’ve got the legs, I will try.”

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