Double Volta a Catalunya runner-up Dan Martin states he’s in shape to fight for the 2013 title
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Monday, March 18, 2013

Double Volta a Catalunya runner-up Dan Martin states he’s in shape to fight for the 2013 title

by Shane Stokes at 11:08 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Volta a Catalunya
 
Irishman part of strong Garmin-Sharp team for Catalan race

Dan MartinHe’s been banging on the door for quite some time in the Volta a Catalunya; second in 2009, second again in 2011 and fourth last year, a strong series of results in what is essentially the home race for the Girona resident.

Dan Martin began the 2013 race today and believes that he is once again in strong enough form to challenge for the overall.

“I feel pretty good,” he told VeloNation yesterday evening. “After Tirreno I stayed with the team in Italy, with the guys who were preparing for Sanremo. It meant I had massage, good food, hanging out with the guys. By not going back to Girona I missed out on some good weather, but there was less distractions and I really rested.”

Martin saw encouraging signs in the Italian event and since then has been concentrated on being good for Catalunya. “I did a couple of long rides this weeks in between the races to keep the engine going. I think I finished Tirreno strongly. The last road stage I felt the best of any of the days, although a mechanical problem messed up my chances on the stage. So I am pretty optimistic about what I can do this week.”

The race has long been a focus for the Irishman. In 2009 he shocked eventual winner Alejandro Valverde when he beat him on the Vallnord Pal stage, finishing just six seconds behind the stage winner Julien Sanchez Pimienta.

Valverde went on to win the overall, finishing fifteen seconds ahead of Martin, but was impressed by what he saw from the then-22 year old.

Martin missed the race in 2010, then returned in 2011. He was originally third overall behind Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre ISD), but moved up to second after Contador was stripped of his results by the Court of Arbitration to Sport. CAS made the ruling in relation to the Spaniard’s positive test in the 2010 Tour de France.

Last year, Martin was one of thirteen riders who finished one minute 32 seconds behind the overall winner Micahel Albasini (GreenEdge). Finishing fourth by virtue of stage placings, he was on the same time as third-placed Jurgen van den Broeck and just two seconds off the runner-up slot taken by Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi).

That race was neutered somewhat by snow on what would have been the queen stage, with the third leg shortened due to snow on the ascent of the Port del Cantó and on the finishing climb at Port Ainé. That modification prevented what was expected to be a big shakeup in the general classification, and an assault on the jersey of Albasini. This time round, the weather is much better, and the race should proceed as planned.

“Wednesday and Thursday are the most important days, for sure,” Martin said, discussing the key parts of the race. “Two very, very hard mountain stages. They’ll really be the first big mountain stages that anybody has done all year.

“We had some really tough stages in Tirreno and maybe that gives me a bit of an advantage because I have the feeling of the high mountains in my legs already this year. Still, doing that much climbing in a couple of days and a lot of kilometres too is very tough…there are two epic days on the cards, especially the Thursday stage. That’s really a hard, hard one…it is pretty much the one they had to cancel last year.”

Tirreno buildup, Garmin-Sharp lineup:

Martin has been relatively quiet thus far this season, although tenth on the Chieti stage of Tirreno Adriatico showed that his form was on the up. He believes he would also have been well placed on the following day’s stage to Porto Sant'Elpidio, but had mechanical issues on the third ascent of the day’s tough climb.

“We came into the climb from a different direction and that took me by surprise,” he said. “I was a bit rushed when I was changing down into the small chainring and it just jammed…I couldn’t pedal backwards or forwards, I had to get off the bike and get it going again.

Dan Martin“It is always hard to say where I would have finished, but I was feeling good and I had been really comfortable until then. The first two times up the steep climb, I had been in the top five going over the top. None of the climbs were ever a problem. I felt I was really at ease all day. Anyway, I just know that my form has come good and I definitely feel good at the moment. I will try to take advantage of that this week.”

Martin lined out today as part of a very strong Garmin-Sharp team. It also includes Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal plus former Tour de France top ten finishers Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson who, along with Dave Zabriskie, are making their return from their six month USADA-suspension in the race.

The other three riders are Koldo Fernandez, Michael Kreder and Peter Stetina; collectively, it’s an impressive lineup, although a lack of racing on the part of Hesjedal, Danielson and Zabriskie mean that they could be below their usual level.

“It is true that we are coming into the race with one of the strongest teams in the race,” Martin said. “If I am going the best out of everybody, it will be awesome to have that backup. At the same time, I am the only one on the team that has really raced this year. The guys could be a bit rusty as well.

“I think that takes the pressure off us. We are very much an unknown force in this race, while other teams are coming in very much on a high from having got results before… I wouldn’t say we are underdogs, but I think we can definitely go a bit unnoticed…well, to start with, at least.”

In terms of who will lead the team, Martin said that the road will decide; after a couple of stages, it should become clear as to who could contend. If things go the way he is hoping, he’ll be the rider who gets the backing of the others and pushes for a high finish or, perhaps, even the win.

“The last three times I have done the race I have been around the podium, taking two seconds and fourth,” he said. “Living in the area, it is like a home race for me, a special one. We all know the roads living here, the team has its Service Course here, and that gives you that extra bit of motivation.

“There are also a lot of classy bike riders here this week, so it is going to be a really tough week’s racing…especially on the back of what was a really heavy week in Tirreno. I am pretty confident that I am fully recovered, although obviously you can’t really tell until the racing starts.

“As far as the form is going, though, I think I can be in the front and sniffing around the podium at the end of the week.”

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