Feature: Dan Martin over virus and knuckling down again to Tirreno preparation
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Feature: Dan Martin over virus and knuckling down again to Tirreno preparation

by Shane Stokes at 4:16 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tirreno-Adriatico
 
Irishman speaks about stolen bikes, missing Mont Faron and Ardennes target

Dan MartinHaving pulled out of the Tour of the Mediterranean when the Garmin Sharp team’s bicycles were stolen and then withdrawn from the roster for the Tour du Haut Var due to illness, Dan Martin is aiming for some good training in the next two weeks in his build-up for his next scheduled event.

The Irish climber is due to compete in Tirreno-Adriatico and while the past week has disrupted what had been a very good flow of training, he is hoping to be back in strong shape for the Italian race.

“Before I got sick, I had really good form,” he told VeloNation yesterday. “We will have a training camp in Girona this week, riding together and getting in some good training. I did three and a half hours today and think I’m over whatever I had. I’ll play it by ear in the next couple of days but hopefully I’ll be able to train well between now and Tirreno.”

Martin began his season in the Tour of the Mediterranean and had hoped to ride strongly there. He finished third overall in the race in 2009 and, on paper at least, the Mont Faron stage would be ideal for him. “It is hard to know how it would have went,” he said. “Obviously I couldn’t really test myself the same way in Med as I wanted to, but I definitely didn’t have any difficulties the first day.

“That first stage in Med was bit harder than everybody expected, and I did a decent time trial as well [he was 26th - ed.]. “It is hard to say where you are, but I just know that my winter training went well and training camp was excellent as well.”

Day three of the race was cancelled due to administrative problems and on the morning of the all-important Faron stage, the Garmin-Sharp team discovered that they would have another unscheduled day away from competition; their team truck had been broken into and all the bikes were stolen.

VeloNation spoke to Martin in the days after the theft and he said that the incident left the riders shaken. “It really hit me at breakfast that morning, it was very strange. You felt like you had been violated because it really is your bike. Okay, it is a work tool and obviously it didn’t affect me financially like a normal person’s bike, but there is something very personal about it. It is set for you, and getting that same position back isn’t as easy as it sounds. It was really a sick-to-the-stomach feeling.”

As has happened in similar cases before, other teams rallied around and offered spare bikes to the Garmin-Sharp riders who were affected. Three other teams were sharing the same hotel as the American team and they pledged the use of their machines. However ultimately the affected riders decided not to compete.

“It wasn’t an option for us. It would be different if it was the last day of the Tour on the Champs Elysees, just riding up and down, but to ride a mountain stage at the start of the year is just not worth the risk of injuring yourself,” Martin explained. “Jumping on a strange bike with an hour to go before a stage is not really practical.

“There are issues about finding the right pedals and getting everything right. You can set the saddle height up fine, but then you have got different seat angles, different geometry, changing bars and bar widths and stem lengths and heights…it just wasn’t practical. This was two and half hours before the start of the stage and we just hadn’t even started setting up the bikes. It just wasn’t very practical…but it was a very nice gesture from the other teams.”

While the team and the hotel both have insurance and the cost of the theft should ultimately be covered, the loss is still a big inconvenience. It also resulted in extra man-hours to get the riders equipped with new bikes. “I just mainly feel sorry for the mechanics as they have enough work at this time of the year – they have spent the last couple of months building new bikes, and now they have to build another set of bikes,” he said. “At a time when they are preparing for the Classics season, building the mud bikes that riders will use [in Paris-Roubaix], now they have got an extra sixteen bikes to build. It is a pain in the ass for everybody.”

Dealing with a virus:

As things were, though, Martin felt ‘off’ that morning. He woke up feeling like he had a head cold and was debating internally whether he would have competed or not. Falling ill early on in the season is always a concern, and many riders will err on the side of caution in that situation.

Dan Martin“It would have been one of those things…I would have been sitting in the bus before the start thinking maybe I shouldn’t start. I definitely didn’t feel 100 percent. It is hard to say, but now I don’t think I would have started.”

Those sensations lingered in the days afterwards, causing him to miss out on training and also to withdraw from his scheduled participation in the Tour du Haut Var on Saturday and Sunday. He’s feeling better now, though, and trained for three and a half hours yesterday.

Tirreno Adriatico starts in two weeks and one day, giving him time to try to catch up on his training and to build his condition. It was due to be his first big target of the year and while he said that the missed days training and racing will likely impact on his form, he’ll still try to do well.

“I’ve never ridden the race before but am looking forward to it. It will also be a good way to test ourselves in the team time trial. Obviously I might not have the same form that I was hoping for going into that race, but it is still very early in the year and it is a long season.”

The bigger picture is the more important one. Last year he finished fourth in the Volta a Catalunya, fifth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and sixth in Flèche Wallonne. The latter two performances did a lot for his confidence in the Classics, not least because he was one of the strongest in the finale of Liège and achieved his Flèche placing despite being very far back at the start of the Mur de Huy.

Being a year older and more experienced should stand to him, and he can in theory challenge for a podium finish in those races.

“My principal objective for the start of the year are the Ardennes Classics and they are still two months away,” he said. “I am still on schedule. I had a really perfect winter training, I have a lot of training in the bank so I am really very relaxed about things.”

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