All things considered, 2020 was a good year for Guillaume Martin. His burgeoning reputation as a philosopher-grimpeur soared even further and his claiming of the Vuelta KOM decisively confirmed his cult stardom. Truth be told, it was the year Martin went mainstream.
To those who’ve been following him for a while, Martin has always existed in something of a vacuum within cycling. Part of his allure as a rider comes from the fact he hasn’t yet been part of a “major” team within the peloton, instead making a name for himself at then-Pro Conti Wanty-Gobert before stepping up to the WorldTour with Cofidis. These days, he’s kind of a big deal.
Still, it remains valid to paint him as a thinker in a world of jocks, the kid in an American high school drama who gets beaten up by Wout Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel before stealing both their girlfriends. (Someone pitch that miniseries to GCN).
The occasional appearance on French TV to sell his book Socrate à vélo only enhances the idea that Martin is a separate entity, while riding for the likes of Wanty/Cofidis rather than Jumbo/Ineos seems to solidify that sui generis brand. This is a good thing, especially in a world as homogenous as professional cycling.
Now, Martin’s status has progressed to the point that targeting a top 10 at the Tour de France seems perfectly logical. He finished 11th on GC in 2020 and seized attention with a third-place on stage 4 to Orcières-Merlette.
On that day he lost out to Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar but out-kicked the rest of a truly elite climbing group including Julian Alaphilippe, Nairo Quintana, Egan Bernal, Thibaut Pinot, Miguel Angel López and Tom Dumoulin. That’s one of the most stellar collections of mountaineers imaginable, so Martin’s class is plain for all to see.
Sure, he gradually faded away as the days went by in the Tour but he likely suffered this fate because of a dearth of help from his domestiques. One look at the startlist for that race and it’s patently obvious that Cofidis just didn’t have the firepower to support him in a GC quest.
Interestingly, there is hope for Martin in 2021 with the arrival at Cofidis of several engines who could be pressed into his service. It remains to be seen how many of these new signings will be apportioned to Martin but if they are he will surely benefit from sturdier assistance at key points than in previous years.
Breaking that top 10 is not a pipe dream. He could even be the man to finally win a Tour stage for Cofidis for the first time since 2008. As a leader, these are the feats expected of him now. And yet, though Martin has become an established name within his sport, he remains one of its most endearing cult heroes.
This piece is adapted from KONM’s 2021 Cofidis, Solutions Crédits preview.