Martin relieved and rewarded by second worlds triumph
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Martin relieved and rewarded by second worlds triumph

by Shane Stokes at 1:50 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
 
Rainbow jersey defence turns around difficult season

Tony MartinOnly Tony Martin knows what went through his mind during the purgatory of the world time trial championship, but in digging deep and fending off Taylor Phinney by five slender seconds, it’s likely that several thoughts drove him onwards and fuelled him dipping so deep that he had to slump down on the Valkenburg tarmac after his effort.

The possibilities of taking gold and retaining the precious rainbow jersey were undoubtedly two of his biggest motivators. But at another level, the thoughts of disappointments he faced this year must also have spurred him on. An early-season injury put him behind form at the start of the year, then in April he was hit by a car when training and suffered fractures to his cheekbone, jaw, eye-socket, left shoulder blade and arm.

In the Tour de France he punctured in both the prologue and first long time trial, then was forced out of the race due to increasing pain from the scaphoid bone he fractured on stage one.

All these factors combined to produce today’s storming ride, a 46.755 kilometre per hour slog on one of the toughest time trial courses in recent years.

“I am happy, totally happy, but I’m really tired now,” Martin beamed after the finish, the importance of the result causing the German to show far more emotion than usual. “I heard it would be really, really tight to Taylor Phinney. We were in-between ten seconds all the time and the last kilometre was one of my longest…even the last 200 metres were so long because we had a full headwind from the top of the Cauberg. It was really, really hard.”

Part of the difficulty was the mental stress of being the defending champion. “There was a lot of pressure on my shoulders. Everybody expected me to pick up the gold but it’s a one-day race,” he stated. “There’s still some pretty good riders here, even if Fabian Cancellara and Bradley Wiggins were absent.”

Martin had a brief scare when Phinney went quickest at the first time check, the American reaching the 14.3 kilometre checkpoint four seconds faster. The German moved ahead after that, being thirteen seconds faster ahead at checkpoint two, but just eight seconds ahead by point three.

It was clear that the rainbow jersey would be determined on the Cauberg and, after saving his legs slightly by assuming an aero tuck position and rolling down the descent prior to the final climb, Martin pushed himself to exhaustion on the ramp up towards the final kilometre and, after that, onwards to the finish line. As Phinney watched in frustration, the blocky German thundered in five seconds faster to make it two in a row.

He was generous in his praise of the BMC Racing Team rider, who is five years his junior and who showed today he’s capable of taking a rainbow jersey next year.

“I think Taylor was amazing,” he said. “Everybody knew I was strong but I think not so many people expected Taylor. Everybody knows the story from the team time trial – I think he was really disappointed [in his BMC Racing Team missing gold by three seconds – ed.]. I think he made a really strong comeback and I have to say complements to him.”

The American ended up being his closest rival, but many had anticipated another rider would be the most likely to pose problems. Vuelta a España winner Alberto Contador set off two minutes ahead of Phinney and left the start house like the finish was two kilometres down the road, whirring the pedals around with considerable urgency. However he soon ran out of steam.

He was only sixteenth at the first time check and seventeenth at the second, being caught and passed by Martin between those two points. The German admitted that he hadn’t expected at all to reel in the Spaniard, but when it happened, said that it spurred him on.

“I was really surprised – I thought he would be one of the strongest contenders today for the title,” he said. “It was all the time up and down and so the course was also for him. It gave me a lot of motivation at the end to catch him and to pass him….for me it was very good.”

The importance of that can’t be under-estimated; given the extraordinarily-tight finishing margin, having that sort of mid-race boost could have made the difference between first and second.

Then again, pounding out the frustration of a tough year could have played a big part too. Whatever the reason for the win, his reaction showed how important the success was.

“I am super happy that after all the ups and downs this season, this is a super-nice finish now,” Martin smiled. “I have to thank my team, my staff, my family and my girlfriend. They are always there behind me, even in the really bad times. The victory is really for them.”

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