• The rain and hail didn't deter the riders from engaging in some entertaining racing (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The Tour de France podium has taken on a remarkably Anglo-Irish flavour after Stage 9, but can Yates and Martin go the distance?
Cycling Central

11 Jul 2016 - 7:38 AM  UPDATED 11 Jul 2016 - 7:41 AM

The three riders made up the core of the elite GC group that crested the Arcalis climb, along with Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Froome holds a slender lead of 16 seconds over Yates, with Martin a further three seconds back.

Froome is certainly feeling his rivals breathing down his neck.

" Several times before the Tour, I said this would be the biggest battle of my career and it's definitely the case," said Froome after the stage. "It's not easy to ride away from everyone this year. The level is higher than in previous years."

However, both Yates and Martin are downplaying their chances of standing on the podium in Paris. Yates was relatively bullish after bouncing back strongly from his crash into the deflating flamme rouge on Stage 7.

“It’s not too bad for a second go at the Tour de France, but still I’m not 100 per cent riding GC. I’m not too bad where I am and yeah, we have the rest day tomorrow, so I’ll rest up and see how the legs come out after," second-placed man and white jersey holder Yates told Cycling Weekly.

“I’d like to win a stage, but as long as I have options on GC, I’ll follow that goal.”

Martin was also clear that he is targeting stage wins.

"I don't consider myself a contender," said Martin after the stage. "Chris and Nairo are the big favourites for the win, but I wanted to see what I can do, so I attacked a few times.

"I'm third overall now, but I still want to take it day by day and try to get a stage win," added Martin, who uses the Andorre Arcalis climb as one of his regular training rides. "I like riding again in the high mountains. I'm an aggressive rider, that's my nature, and I like to attack and fight for the win even if this means getting dropped, instead of sitting behind and fighting for second."

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Dumoulin conquers Arcalis as hailstorm punishes peloton
The hostile weather mirrored the action on the Tour de France's first summit finish on Arcalis as Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) takes the stage and Chris Froome matched every attack to retain yellow.

Even Froome highlighted Quintana as his main rival, despite acknowledging that both Martin and Yates are riding extremely well.

"At the back of my mind, I was waiting for Nairo Quintana to attack until we reached the last kilometer. I was wondering if he was saving himself for a big move. As he didn't, I like to think that he was at his limit. He stayed glued on my wheel."