The award as the best domestique of the 2021 Giro d’Italia goes to Daniel Felipe Martínez Poveda, better known simply as Daniel Martínez, 25 year‑old, from Bogota.
He was the last one always standing at Bernal’s side, along each and every climb, on the most challenging ascents, for three weeks, supporting and caring for him, as attentively as an older brother, and as lovingly as a nanny. And the other way around.
Most probably, however, there was a definite moment when it became clear that Martínez deserved this prize. A moment so precise that it was even immortalized in a photograph, which is considered as one of the most beautiful ones (or maybe the most beautiful one) of the 2021 Giro.
Stage 17 was underway, running from Canazei to Sega di Ala, and Bernal was experiencing his first and only meltdown. The race leader was weaving side to side, toiling against the punishing hairpins in the final kilometres. At the front, it seemed as Yates could overturn the general classification.
And that’s where Martínez came in.
He moved up to Bernal, waiting and cheering for him. He took him by his hand, preventing him from going astray. And, most likely, helping him win the Giro d’Italia.
We have mentioned that beautiful photograph. What makes it so beautiful? It does portray a great champion struggling in an extremely difficult moment, indeed. But maybe there is more.
Perhaps what makes it so beautiful is that it reminds us all of the times when we seem to be going adrift. If the Maglia Rosa can suffer a setback, we ordinary men and women can (and will), too. In these moments, we would all love to have a Daniel Martinez by our side, waiting for us, encouraging us with the same passion and expression. Someone who sticks with us through the lowest point of our life, instead of continuing on their way. Someone who takes the time to slow down, look into our eyes and help us fight our battle as if it were their own.
In a nutshell, someone who won’t make us feel alone in times of need.
Daniel Felipe Martínez Poveda is the rider who did all of this better than anyone else in the 2021 Giro d’Italia – for his team, for Bernal, and somehow even for all of us.