Martin matches Stephen Roche’s 1987 Flèche Wallonne result with fourth place
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Martin matches Stephen Roche’s 1987 Flèche Wallonne result with fourth place

by Shane Stokes at 8:33 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Flèche Wallonne
Irishman inches from podium despite puncture in final half hour of race

Dan MartinDan Martin matched Ireland’s previous best performance in Flèche Wallonne today, equalling his uncle Stephen Roche’s 1987 placing of fourth in the race.

The Garmin Sharp rider was arguably the fastest over the final 100 metres of the event, passing several riders and falling mere inches short of passing Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) for third.

He was three seconds behind the winner Dani Moreno, but could in theory have battled for the win had he not punctured with 21 kilometres remaining. That meant he needed to change his front wheel and then chase for several kilometres to return to the peloton.

Once there, he had to burn up yet more energy to get back into position prior to the final ascent of the Mur de Huy. Martin appeared to be suffering at the bottom of the climb and didn’t go with the first riders when they pushed forward, but rallied strongly to post a very strong second half of that ascent.

“I'm very proud with how I myself rode and the team rode today. Nathan Haas in his first Flèche guided me around perfectly for the first 175 kilometres, keeping me at the front and out of trouble,” he said. “Pete Stetina was right there when I needed a wheel change and all the other guys did their bit to keep me in position.

“I honestly would not have done anything different all day. Except the puncture, which I couldn't believe after the bad luck of Sunday, but I kept calm and then Fabian Wegmann did an incredible job to put me into a good position at the bottom of the Muur.”

Martin was sixth in the race last year and so has improved two places on that showing. He had hoped for more, though, with his mountain stage win and overall victory in the Volta a Catalunya bolstering his confidence and sharpening his resolve.

He will likely mull over what might have been had he not punctured. Still, taking the result he did shows he is in very good shape, and this will give him focus for Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

He’s also gained valuable experience for future years. Given his speed at the end plus his result, it is clear that this is a race he can hope to win during his career. He’s also happy with the tactics he showed.

“People say I came from far back, but I raced the climb and not the riders,” he explained. “I did get a bit baulked at about 250m to go but again I finished strongly. I just didn't have the legs to follow on the steepest part but I think I judged my effort almost perfectly. I'm just gutted to be so close to the podium, literally a matter of inches, but I feel good and so we can look forward with optimism to Sunday's race. It’s another of my favourites.”

Last time round he was fifth in Liège. He’s aiming higher this time. “I'm a year fitter and stronger so who knows what can happen?” he asked. “The whole team is going well and today is a big confidence boost going into La Doyenne. I believed I could do well, and the boys rode impeccably so we'll enjoy the result tonight and then start looking forward to the next big one.”


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