Dan Martin Interview: On winning the Queen stage and leading the Volta a Catalunya
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dan Martin Interview: On winning the Queen stage and leading the Volta a Catalunya

by Shane Stokes at 8:37 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Volta a Catalunya
 
Irishman in pole position but has three days' fighting ahead

Dan MartinHe’s twice finished second overall in the race and said prior to the start that he felt he was in the right condition to fight for the overall; on Thursday, Dan Martin delivered on that intention when he raced to a fine solo stage win on the Queen stage of the Volta a Catalunya.

The Irish Garmin-Sharp rider hit the line at Port Ainé-Rialp 36 seconds ahead of his closest rivals Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), taking the race leader’s jersey by ten seconds over Rodriguez.

It was a fine recovery from what was a somewhat muted stage for him on Wednesday, when Martin faded towards the end of the stage and ended up losing 32 seconds to the stage winner Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Movistar Team), and 26 to Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Movistar Team), Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling).

Martin was very disappointed with how that turned out, and went on the attack early on Thursday’s stage four. He was part of a 23 man group which opened a gap on the peloton and, driven on by his team-mate Ryder Hesjedal, helped him to gain time.

Behind, his attempt to turn the race on his head was boosted by the unfortunate crash of race leader Alejandro Valverde, who fell on a descent and withdrew from the race.

Martin accelerated towards the end of the stage and had enough strength left to hold off the chasers behind. The victory was one of the best of his career, and has put him in a position to finally win what is a ‘home’ race for a rider who has lived for several years in Girona.

In the interview below, Martin discusses the stage, describing how the action played out and the tactics used, gives his reaction to taking the victory and talks about how he, and the Garmin-Sharp team, will try to win the overall classification on Sunday.


VeloNation:
Congratulations on your victory and staying away to the finish. Was that planned – did you think that might happen, and things would work out as they did?

Dan Martin: I didn’t, actually. I was going to wait until the final. But after 25 kilometres we hit this real narrow, twisting road and it was really hard. The peloton got really strung out. We knew about it from reconnaissance from last year...I knew to be in the front.

I watched as Movistar really started to struggle. They lost a couple of guys and then Wiggo also punctured. That mean that Sky were off the front, looking after him.

Getting towards the top of the climb with about one kilometre to go, Valverde was left isolated. Guys just kept attacking. I knew Ryder was in front already in a group of eight. I just followed an attack. It wasn’t really much of an effort, either, which was kind of nice.

Dan MartinI looked around and we opened the gap. I kind of figured – especially knowing the roads from today – that being in a big breakaway was going to be easier than being in the peloton, as I knew how dangerous the downhills were and stuff.

As it turned out, Ryder was incredible. He just rode on the front all day for me. I barely did a tap until the last couple of hours. It was definitely a lot easier than being in the peloton. I think you could see that on the last climb, as I was able to really hold the guys off who were coming up fast behind. I managed to make it.

VN: You have a ten second lead, but there’s ten seconds up for grabs to the stage winner on the final day. It’s very tight. You were celebrating before the line, though – do you think that might have cost you any time?

DM: I was carrying enough speed, so I made sure. It was only twenty metres, so… Well, maybe one second, but you don’t get to win very often.

That one second…hopefully it doesn’t cost me, but whatever. I am going to enjoy the victory tonight and if Sunday happens, it happens. This week has already been a success with winning a race. We have got a strong enough team to defend it, I hope.

VN: Were you concerned on that last climb when they were coming back at you from behind, or did you feel that you were going well enough to hang on?

DM: I didn’t really know what was going on, to be honest. I got a couple of time checks, but I couldn’t really do anything about it. It wasn’t like I could have accelerated. I just kept my rhythm going. I realised with about 200 metres to go that I was going to win.

I knew the climb from reconnaissance from before. I think that really played into our hands as nobody else really knew the climb.

I also knew that between two and one kilometre to go was really, really steep. I was kind of prepared for that. I really did stop dead on that little wall at the end. That kind of worried me, but once I got to one kilometre to go I got my rhythm back and really managed to hold them back.

VN: You faded at the end yesterday [stage three – ed.] Do you think the issue yesterday was a little bit of hunger knock?

Dan MartinDM: No, it wasn’t hunger knock…I think the altitude maybe affected me. I am maybe also a bit flat from Tirreno, but that also paid dividends today as I was a real diesel out there. I think the strength from Tirreno really paid off today. Maybe the other guys have come down to my lever after yesterday’s hard stage!

Also maybe suffering yesterday opened my legs up and prepared me for today. In addition, losing that bit of time gave me a bit more leash as well. I think maybe the guys thought that I wasn’t as good as I was, and maybe didn’t expect me to be able to go so fast up the last climb.

If I had been any closer, if I hadn’t lost the time yesterday, there is no way they would have let me go in the breakaway. So it also paid off well.

VN: How significant is this result compared to the races you won before – I presume it is one of the top victories?

DM: Well, I don’t like to compare them…it feels the sweetest at the moment because it was today. It was definitely a very beautiful win and to beat the guys that I beat today is definitely a bit of a landmark. We will just try to finish the job on Sunday, now - that is what we are thinking about. To do it in such fashion and to win a big mountain top like that really is fantastic.

VN: On Sunday, is the ideal scenario that a break goes clear and that your Garmin-Sharp team gives them enough rope for them to stay clear until the finish and then that soaks up the bonuses, or what you would like to see happen?

DM: Of course…there a lot of guys who want to win stages in this race and I think that it is going to be very difficult to control in the next couple of days. We just have got to hope that we get a lot of help from the sprinters’ teams or the breakaway can go to the finish, which for us would be the perfect scenario in that it would take all the bonus seconds.

But I think that last stage is not going to be played off on bonus seconds, it will be played off on legs as it is such a hard day. It really suits Rodriguez but if it suits him, it suits me as well. We are similar-type riders. I have just got to hope I continue to get stronger in the race. I have probably got one of the strongest teams in the race to go with it.

I do think we are in a strong position. Obviously it would be nice to have a few more seconds now, but I’d rather be ten seconds in front rather than ten seconds behind, for sure.

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