Dan Martin Interview: My ambition is to be world champion; I’m not going to stress about GC
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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dan Martin Interview: My ambition is to be world champion; I’m not going to stress about GC

by Shane Stokes at 4:49 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, World Championships
 
Garmin-Sharp rider mainly focussing on stages in Vuelta a España, but says course could lead to strong overall finish

Dan MartinA stage winner in the Tour de France and a previous winner of a stage at the 2011 Vuelta a España, Dan Martin wants to achieve a similar goal in this year’s Vuelta. However the Irishman emphasises that he won't put himself under pressure as regards the overall classification.

It’s not a case of slacking off or anything like that; instead, it is a combination of Martin’s low-key approach to racing, his way of keeping stress at bay. But there’s another reason – his identification of an even bigger personal target after the race.

“I think the GC is a possibility, but I am not going to stress about it. I am not going to tell you that I am going to finish in the top five of GC, as that is not an ambition of mine,” he told VeloNation prior to the race start. “My ambition is to be world champion; this is the best way of preparing for the world championships.

“If results come my way during the course of this race, then yeah I am going to take them with both hands, but I am in a very, very relaxed, confident mood coming into this race.”

Martin won Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year, becoming only the second Irishman to do so. In emulating Sean Kelly in what is regarded as arguably the toughest Classic, he proved that he has the potential to also become world champion. This year’s worlds is on a hilly course in Florence, Italy, and it is accepted that he will be one of the top contenders there.

Chasing a rainbow jersey has been marked out all year as one of his top goals; Liège, a Tour stage win and gold in Florence have been his three biggest aims.

Martin never races simply to clock up competitive kilometres and his natural aggression means that he will grab chances as he gets them in the Vuelta. However his prioritisation of the worlds plus his recovery from the Tour mean that he has taken a somewhat unconventional approach to his buildup for the race.

“I was really sick at the end of the Tour and it took me a bit longer than expected to get well. I had obviously dug a pretty deep hole to try to finish the Tour. I think it took me ten or twelve days to actually stop coughing green shit up and to actually feel healthy again,” he said.

Martin rode a criterium in Holland and then tried to knuckle down to training afterwards. However he played things by feel; his sensations were that he hadn’t got his energy levels back up again, so he didn’t push too hard.

“I’ve actually been quite tired since the Tour and with a view to the world championships and the third week of this race, I thought it would be best to just take it really easy and to come into the race fresh,” he said.

“So I have done a couple of days hard training and done a couple of blocks of hard days, but mostly endurance and not so much hard stuff. Obviously coming into this race, my form is very much unknown. I don’t know where I am going to be in those first couple of days, but I’m quite confident that I am going to come good by the end of the race.”

Martin discusses his approach and how he feels the race will play out for him in the interview below. He admits that he hasn’t paid much attention to the course details, saying the fact that there are eleven summit finishes and just one lumpy time trial are enough for him to know.

In an era where riders study every last centimetre of the course, his is an old-fashioned approach, but he feels it works best for him.

Today will be the first real gauge of how he is going in the race. He lost one minute 41 seconds to Jani Brajkovi, Vincenzo Nibali and the rest of the Astana team yesterday when his Garmin-Sharp squad was hit by bad luck in the team time trial. Two of his team-mates crashed and he told VeloNation that he was ‘centimetres’ off hitting the deck himself. “It cost us a lot of time, we had been going very fast before then,” he stated. “We lost two strong guys for the last 22 kilometres, and also had to wait for a bit; we lost all our rhythm.”

It will be today’s summit finish to Alto Do Monte Da Groba that will give a better picture of how the big names are going.

Martin anticipates that he might lose some time, but is relaxed about that. He’s clear that he will get stronger as the race goes on and, if he’s played things correctly, will be flying in week three. And at the worlds in Firenze, where he will seek to echo his uncle Stephen Roche in winning the rainbow jersey.


Dan MartinVeloNation: First off, how were things after the Tour de France?

Dan Martin: I was really sick at the end of the Tour and it took me a bit longer than expected to get well. I had obviously dug a pretty deep hole to try to finish the Tour. I think it took me ten or twelve days to actually stop coughing green shit up and to actually feel healthy again.

That was a bit hard mentally as that was my time off after the Tour and then I had to start getting serious right away. I went to Holland to do a criterium. I felt that my legs were pretty good. Those post Tour crits are a bit of fun. That was a really good experience, to meet so many people, although the circuit was a bit tricky…it was 1.6 kilometres and covered in cobblestones.

It was a good experience, though, and after that I did a bit of training. I’ve actually been quite tired since the Tour and with a view to the world championships and the third week of this race, I thought it would be best to just take it really easy and to come into the race fresh.

So I have done a couple of days hard training and done a couple of blocks of hard days, but mostly endurance and not so much hard stuff. Obviously coming into this race, my form is very much unknown. I don’t know where I am going to be in those first couple of days, but I’m quite confident that I am going to come good by the end of the race.

I am not too optimistic for the first few mountain top finishes, but towards the end of the race I hope that my legs will come good.

VN: Does that mean that the GC is not a major focus?

DM: I am not even thinking about GC. It is the same as I did with the Tour. I am here to just do my best and to chase stages, and if the GC happens, it happens. But the fact that there are eleven mountain top finishes definitely suits me. I don’t think I am going to be too bad in the first couple of days. I don’t think I am going win stages then, but I will be okay.

I think the GC is a possibility, but I am not going to stress about it. I am not going to tell you that I am going to finish in the top five of GC, as that is not an ambition of mine. My ambition is to be world champion, and this is the best way of preparing for the world championships.

If results come my way during the course of this race, then yeah I am going to take them with both hands, but I am in a very, very relaxed, confident mood coming into this race.

The team is in full support of me, but it is obviously not the strongest climbing field that we could have fielded. But that is the way it is. I know these guys will support me to the hilt and put me in the best position before the climbs. So I think we will have a good, fun three weeks racing, get the kilometres in the legs and then be good for Florence.

VN: The worlds is still some time away. How has that affected the way you’ve approached your training?

DM: I have basically spent the last ten days really relaxing. I’ve been with friends, and my brother has been over with his daughter and his fiancée. We have spent time with family and have had a couple of friends over as well. It has been very, very relaxed in the last week or so. Although not training so hard, it has been a different preparation, but mentally I am very fresh.

VN: Have you any estimate of your condition, either from your power readings or climbs near Girona? Do you have any idea how you compare to your fitness before the start of the Tour de France, for example?

DM: No, because I haven’t done any efforts! [laughs] That was the whole idea. That is really how relaxed I am. I was supposed to go and do some efforts last week but I was a bit tired so I didn’t do them. I really have no idea where I am at, so it is kind of funny.

But I know that that this period of the year I am usually really good. And I felt good in the team time trial training we did. I kind of surprised myself.

I am not going to be bad. I was at such a high level and you don’t lose the legs I had at the Tour in four weeks. I might have lost a bit of my top form, but I am definitely not going to be terrible.

It is a case of working out where I am in the first couple of days, then we will see where we are as regards winning a couple of stages.

Dan MartinVN: The course has eleven summit finishes and limited time trials, so that must be encouraging?

DM: Yeah, for sure. The time trial is quite hard and there’s only one of them. It is a really good course for me to be able to ride general. But I am not stressed about it, we’ll see how it goes.

VN: This year’s Tour saw you take your first stage win and you were also around the top ten for most of the race. Has it changed you mentally?

DM: It has changed my confidence levels as far as knowing I can be top ten in the Tour de France. Knowing that I can race as hard as I can every single day for three weeks. I didn’t know that going into the Tour, but now it has been confirmed. In the hardest race of the year, I was able to race in the front and competitively until I got sick.

I know without getting sick that my legs were getting better and better every day. It sounds strange but I was arriving in that final week feeling very fresh and very confident, and perhaps even better than I was in the Pyrenees. So that makes me very optimistic for my future as a Grand Tour rider. But we’ll tackle this one…I am coming in with little bit different preparation, not optimal preparation, but I also was pretty tired heading into the Tour as the Tour de Suisse took a lot out of me.

I had a really hard few weeks’ training before the Tour de Suisse and then basically took it really easy before the Tour. It is similar preparation in that respect, and hopefully my mental freshness will pay off in that third week.

VN: Are there any stages in particular who look good for you?

DM: I haven’t really looked at the stages. It is the same as the Tour. But with eleven mountain top finishes, I am just going to take it day by day, as always. Obviously every time it goes uphill at the finish, it is a potential opportunity for me.

VN: What about your thoughts on the worlds? It is still some time away, but are you happy with how things are planned out?

DM: Yeah, for sure. I am working with Cycling Ireland to have the best possible conditions in Florence. Obviously I have to do my bit now and arrive in the best shape possible. Obviously that is easier said than done but if I can get to the race in peak condition, you just need that bit of luck.

There a lot of stars that need to align for us to be able to achieve something special that day in Florence, but we are doing our best to be able to do that.

Starting the Vuelta is definitely a primary stepping stone, a big step towards being world champion. It is going well at the moment. I am quite happy.

Also, it is a big bonus that we will have four riders in Florence. I thought we were going to have three, so to have that fourth rider is going to be an advantage for us.

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