Dan Martin Interview: Irishman ambitious prior to first Tour de France
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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dan Martin Interview: Irishman ambitious prior to first Tour de France

by Shane Stokes at 8:28 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tour de France
Stage wins and mountain jersey of interest to Garmin-Sharp rider

Dan MartinGarmin Sharp pro Dan Martin has said that he’s feeling upbeat about his form and his prospects as he heads towards the start of his first Tour de France.

The Irish climber fell heavily in the Critérium du Dauphiné, hitting the deck on stage one and limping through the rest of the race. The injuries meant that he was below his normal level and had to be satisfied with a quiet 106th overall. However, having got those kilometres in his legs, he then went back to his base in Girona and worked hard, sacrificing the Irish championships to make sure he had the training he needed. He now believes that he’s in very good shape prior to the start of his debut Tour.

“I was concerned by the crash as I fell hard, but once we knew that nothing was broken and it wasn’t too serious, I knew that we had the staff, the physio, the chiropractor to be able to get me into condition,” he told VeloNation. “It happened four weeks before the Tour de France. I was always quite confident about getting my body back in shape again, but obviously you never know how your body is going to cope.

“However the fact that I was able to finish the Dauphine despite all the injuries showed that my condition was already pretty decent. I wasn’t just finishing, I was in the front group a few days as well, even though I couldn't really get out of the saddle and couldn’t ride properly. My body was very much below par, so that is kind of exciting.”

Martin experienced a sore right shoulder and whiplash symptoms as a result of the fall, which occurred when he hit a roundabout at high speed. He said that he is largely over the damage caused in the June 4th impact, although there was one lingering issue. “My shoulder’s still a bit sore, but the only thing is really that I can’t put my car in reverse…that seems to be the one movement that I can’t do!” he said prior to heading to the Tour.

Had things gone to plan, Martin would have chased a decent result on a stage or overall in the Dauphiné, with that serving to boost his morale prior to the Tour. It became impossible after he fell, though, so he resolved to recover as quickly as he could and then knuckle down to catch up on the intensity he missed out on through the disruption. That in turn required a programme change; he had been due to dispute the Irish national road race championships, with the chance of taking back the jersey he won in 2008 being a priority, but instead he decided to remain in Girona.

“Missing the nationals was hard, seeing the jersey go to someone else, but it enabled me to stay at home. Because of the crash I wasn’t able to train hard the week after the Dauphine…I had to recover and to get my body back in shape,” he explained. “I missed some valuable training time, so by not travelling back for the nationals I was able to get some hard work done. Let’s just say I am a lot more confident as a result.”

Targets for three weeks:

Long regarded as a rider who had the potential to challenge in a Grand Tour, last year was actually the first time Martin showed the required consistency over three weeks to get a high overall result. He was passed over for selection for the Tour de France but, as Garmin Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters told VeloNation recently, the Irishman was told that if he performed well over the three weeks of the Vuelta, that he would get to finally make his debut in the Tour this year.

Martin duly did that, grabbing a stage victory at the summit finish of stage nine to La Covatilla and also placing thirteenth overall. He further underlined his class with second in the one-day Il Lombardia Classic. He’d clearly welcome a good GC result in this year’s race, but over 100 kilometres against the clock aren’t ideal for his chances. As a result, while he isn’t dismissing the general classification, he’ll primarily target a stage win and possibly the mountains jersey.

“I think the big thing is the first week,” he said, when asked about his approach. “That is when a lot of crashes happen and it is all from nervousness, everybody trying to be at the front. Hopefully I can avoid that stress. If I lose a couple of minutes on the flat stages in the first week, I am not going to be too worried about it. The main aim will be to arrive at the mountain stages without falling off, to put it bluntly.

Dan Martin“My priority is to try to get there as fresh as possible, as stress-free as possible, and in the best possible condition. That could possibly give me an advantage compared to the GC riders, in terms of getting uphill quickly. Obviously they are going to be burning energy on the flat stages to be in a good position every day, while I can kind of afford to sit back a bit.

“That said, I am not going to throw the GC away easily. I am not just going to let it go, but it is my first Tour de France. You want to pay the race some respect and to go into it to learn,” he continued. “Also, I have got three team-mates who can definitely ride really well on GC.

“We have a guy – Ryder – who just won the Giro. The team is on a high. We are going in with three guys who finished in the top ten in the Tour before, so for sure at least one of them is going to be there or thereabouts in the general again. And if you go into the last week of the Tour with all three guys, I might be getting a lot of bottles!”

“For me it is a learning race, and there is all that experience to help me around.”

Vaughters believes that a stage win and the mountains jersey are each possible; “I’d be happy if Dan got either,” he stated. However he added that there was an element of luck involved in going for the latter, as each year a big break tends to get clear and to hoover up a lot of points over the climbs.

Martin acknowledges this, but says that the rejigged points allocation which puts weight on the final summit plus the distribution of climbs on this year’s course means that things could be different than that old template.

“The mountains jersey is always a difficult one,” says Martin. “Tactically it is hard to read how it is going to work, but the aim of going for mountain stage wins suits the mountains competition now. Samuel Sanchez got first and second on the mountain stages last year [he won at Luz-Ardiden and was runner up at both Plateau de Beille and Alpe d’Huez – ed.] and ended up winning the jersey just on those points, mainly. It is something we’ll look at after a few days. I have definitely thought about it, especially with the GC being so tough with the time trials. With all the time trial kilometres, it will be difficult for a climber.”

Fortunately Martin’s climbing could potentially be stronger than it has ever been. It’s hard to tell at this point, of course, but he’s feeling very good about his physical condition and is clearly mentally raring to go, too. “I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I am lighter than I have been for two years. Everything else is perfect. Looking at the bright side, the crash has made me go into the race a lot fresher, really well rested. I’m just excited to get started now.”


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