Interview: Martin says pressure is off after first Tour de France stage win, but looks certain to attack again
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Monday, July 08, 2013

Interview: Martin says pressure is off after first Tour de France stage win, but looks certain to attack again

by Shane Stokes at 4:33 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tour de France
 
“We were attacking like crazy at the start. I think that maybe we pissed a lot of people off!”

Dan MartinScooping victory fifty years after Shay Elliott triumphed into Roubaix, and becoming only the fifth Irishman to win a stage of the Tour de France, Dan Martin has said that he will pause and reflect on his victory before identifying his next goals for the race.

“I am not really thinking about it yet. It is just a case of getting up north and having a day off,” he told VeloNation Sunday, speaking of his breakthrough Tour performance, Monday’s rest day, and what his next target will be. “I think everybody is very tired after the last couple of days. It has been so hot this first week. I think you saw today there is a lot of fatigue in the peloton. We wanted to put on a show, and Garmin-Sharp did.”

Martin and his team-mates plunged the Tour into chaos when they attacked repeatedly after the drop of the flag. Saturday’s opening Pyrenean stage hadn’t gone to plan, with Martin and Andrew Talansky two minutes 34 seconds back in fifteenth and sixteenth respectively, and Ryder Hesjedal conceding over eight minutes.

Disgruntled by that, they came out swinging on Sunday morning and, together with other riders who joined in, caught Chris Froome’s Sky team completely off guard.

The British squad was put on the backfoot when the race leader was isolated early on. Richie Porte was also distanced, and would eventually tumble down the general classification from second to 33rd. Much of that was down to Garmin-Sharp for lighting the touchpaper, although other teams then stepped in to ensure that Froome remained isolated until the end of the stage.

“The objective this morning was to put me in a big breakaway at the start and hopefully go right to the finish,” Martin explained. He was determined to ride well after the disappointment of Saturday, but also because he was motivated by a link to the area that the race would travel through.

“It is a stage that has some history for me. The first time I ever saw the Tour was a similar stage back in 1999,” he explained. “I was standing about five kilometres from the top of the Col de Val Louron Azet then, and passing that climb today was pretty special.

“It is also an area that has treated me well in the past. I won the 2008 Route du Sud there on a lot of the same climbs. It is somewhere my family used to go on holiday a lot as well. Knowing the climbs is invaluable, although I didn’t know the last one.”

Dan MartinMartin’s desire to ride aggressively was echoed by that of his team and once the flag dropped and the neutralised section had ended, the Garmin-Sharp riders rose from the saddle and floored it.

“We were attacking like crazy at the start. I think that maybe we pissed a lot of people off! We went right after the start, then on the first climb and on the second climb. We managed to really weaken Sky and weaken a lot of the other teams,” he said.

“I lost count of how many breaks we were in. Then Ryder ended up getting in a breakaway. Behind, the group got whittled down and down. Eventually it settled back into a rhythm with Movistar riding, and then I just concentrated on eating and drinking.”

Martin knew that if he was going to make a move at a later point, that he had to be as fresh as possible. He hid in the bunch and made sure he had sufficient nutrition, allowing the kilometres to pass and for other riders to burn their matches early.

“It was such a hot, hard day. It was not easy. I think we hit 100 kilometres per hour a couple of times on the downhill. The roads were melting and stuff…it was a really epic stage,” he said.

“When we got to the last climb, I wasn’t sure how my legs were. Then Quintana attacked and I countered. I nearly crashed while doing so. The group fanned across the road just as I jumped…there wasn’t much space but I shot through the gap and made it.”

Martin said the fact that he had lost time on Saturday meant that he felt he might be given a little leeway. Fuglsang was also in a similar position, having finished in the same group as Martin then. The hunch was correct; the group initially stalled when first Martin and then Fuglsang raced clear.

“I had a feeling that they might let me let me go if the big favourites watched each other. But then I didn’t expect them to ride so hard on the downhill,” said the Irishman.

Because of that pursuit, a sole rider would likely have been caught. With two, though, it was feasible.

Dan Martin“I was very happy to have Fuglsang with me to share the work,” said Martin, before admitting that at one point, the pain of the effort they were putting out to stay clear meant that he actually wished they were caught. However with a downhill and a helping wind, then held on to the finishing town.

Once there, the collaboration turned to competition between the two breakaway riders. While they had pooled their strengths until that point, the impending sprint meant that everything changed and his ally became his enemy. Martin felt that he had the edge.

“I had a calmness due to the victories I already had this year,” he said, referring to the Volta a Catalunya and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “They gave me a lot of confidence. I was very calm in the situation. I didn’t let the significance of the occasion affect me. It didn’t feel like a stage of the Tour de France.

“I was just concentrating on his back wheel and I knew beforehand from the map that you had to be first into the last corner to win. It had also been impossibly hard all day. Generally if you lead a sprint out, if you get the jump on somebody, they are not going to have the legs to come past you. In that situation I was all right.”

While he’s a flyweight climber, he’s also a snappy rider and said he had some faith in that. “I was confident,” he said. “Although every race is different, I know I am fast…especially in that situation. At the end of a race, I tend to be really quick. It is nice having the confidence coming into the final.

“I was really happy when I crossed the finish line. It was an incredible team effort. The guys did great work. The motivation today was to try to help me win the stage. Everybody – David [Millar], Jack [Bauer], Ramunas [Navardauskas] almost didn’t make the time limit because they were so f*ed after trying to help me get into the breakaway earlier on. There is a great atmosphere here and I am just sad that Christian [Vande Velde] can’t be here to enjoy it.

“He also crashed out the day before I won in Catalunya, and also left the Tour the same way. So it has become a bit of an omen.” Martin had said earlier in the week that Vande Velde was influential to him due to his strong belief in the abilities of the younger rider.

In addition to coming fifty years after Elliott’s groundbreaking triumph for Ireland, yesterday’s success was the first time in 21 years that someone from that country nabbed a stage of the Tour de France. The last was Martin’s uncle Stephen Roche, who triumphed in La Bourboule in 1992.

No predictions:

Dan MartinMartin and the team had a flight yesterday evening to Brittany in the north of France, where the race will recommence on Tuesday with a flat sprinters’ stage. He and the other riders had a glass of champagne, although many of the team staff were still travelling by road. Today’s rest stage gives them the opportunity to get together and to celebrate what he and the team did Sunday; nothing too extravagant, of course, as there’s plenty of racing ahead.

Wednesday’s time trial is the next important rendezvous as regards the general classification. It’s a mainly flat 33 kilometre time trial, which will reshuffle things. Martin is a very light rider but has also been improving against the clock, so he will see to limit his losses there. Then on Sunday the riders will return to the mountains with a stage to the top of Mont Ventoux, a climb which will shred the field.

He’s now eighth overall and has plenty more opportunity to attack ahead. However when asked which was the most important to him out of another stage win or a top ten overall in Paris, he characteristically moved to downplay the pressure.

“I won a stage now so this race is already a success. Whatever comes now is a bonus,” he said, declining to speculate on what he could potentially do. “We are just going to keep taking it day by day. It has worked so far. That last week is looking impossibly hard. I wouldn’t be surprised if I had a bad day at some point, so I am not going to stress about it.”

With Martin, though, you can be sure that he has bigger personal ambitions than that statement suggests. If the legs are good, he and the Garmin-Sharp team will light up the race again.

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Note: The day before the DID Cycle4Life charity ride, of which Martin is the patron, VeloNation carried out a sit-down video interview with him after he won the Volta a Catalunya and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In it he spoke about those success but also his new attitude towards the Tour de France. ““I am lot stronger than I have ever been,” he said then. “The Grand Tour thing is still an unknown. I have definitely developed psychologically and physically now, so maybe this is the year I start to shine in them too.”

Click here to watch that interview:



 

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