Dan Martin aiming for strong performance in Flèche Wallonne and Liège
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dan Martin aiming for strong performance in Flèche Wallonne and Liège

by Conal Andrews at 8:42 AM EST   comments
Categories: Spring Classics, Flèche Wallonne

Feeling like he’s coming into decent form, Irish professional Dan Martin is hoping that he has no issues with allergies during today’s Flèche Wallonne and he can clock up a good race.

The Garmin Transitions rider is a strong climber and could perform strongly in the midweek Classic, providing things go to plan.

“I feel good. It is still a bit unknown as to how my allergies will go,” he told Velonation on Tuesday evening. “I guess I will find out during the race if it is affecting me or not. I will still give it everything I got, it will just determine how fast I can ride. It puts a limiter on my breathing, it causes a reaction in my lungs and restricts me a little bit. My heart-rate can’t go as high and I can’t quite reach that top end.

“But last year I was fine in these races, so I might have a good day - we will see.”

Martin’s last race was the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, where he was ninth on stage one and fifteenth overall. Before that, he was fourteenth in the Criterium International and so his form has been solid for several weeks. He has continued to build on it of late and will aim to be in the running inside the last hour of competition.

This year’s course has been changed, with the final two ascents of the Mur de Huy being much closer together than before. There is also the inclusion of the Cote de Ereffe in that final 30 kilometres, giving plenty of scope for the climbers to set the race on fire.

However Martin is not convinced that the penultimate ascent of the Mur de Huy will itself be decisive, apart from whittling down the field.

“Everybody is making a big thing about the Mur de Huy being only 30 kilometres from the finish, but it is a still long way away from the line to be a launch pad,” he said. “Especially so because the roads after the Mur are fairly big, flattish roads for ten or 15 kilometres.

“I think the last ten, twelve kilometres are really interesting for an attack. But I actually liked the course before because it was so predictable, it was just a case of waiting for the last climb. Now it will definitely make a better race for the fans and it will be exciting for us as well – it is all about placing for the last climb.

“I don’t think there will be as big a group of riders at the bottom of the Mur this year, there will probably be a smaller group, a smaller peloton. It will be interesting to see how the new format turns out.

Gilbert as favourite, and his expectations for Liège:

Most of the attention will be focussed on Philippe Gilbert, thanks to his domination of the finale of the Amstel Gold race on Sunday. His final acceleration on the Cauberg was nothing short of astonishing, leaving the rest of the lead bunch for dead. He will be closely watched today.

Martin agrees that the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider will be one of the big guns, but also think that the nature of the race opens it up to more riders.

“Gilbert is definitely going to be watched,” he said. “As she showed at the end of last year, he is the guy to beat when he gets on top form. He is definitely really motivated for these races as well. His performance in Amstel the other day was a great ride; he made every group, was in front the whole time, and still managed to get the sprint as well.

“That said, there are loads of guys in contention. Flèche is such an open race, and the distance opens it up to a lot more guys as well. There are ten or 15 guys who can win, especially once team tactics come into play. Katusha is really strong, collectively, and with Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez, Caisse has got a really strong squad. So too for BMC, and us as well. Ryder [Hesjedal, second in Amstel] is on top form as well. Hopefully we will have a few cards to play in the final, with Michel Kreder there too. It is going to be a really tactical day.”

Whatever way things work out today, Martin and the other climbers will also have a chance to chase big results on Sunday. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the last of the Ardennes Classics and has enough big hills to really put the pressure on. Martin says that he’d love a big result in either race, but concedes that he might have a better chance on today’s course.

“I think that Fleche suits me better at the moment because it is a bit shorter…you don’t get much chance to race over 250 kilometres in a season. Being in my third year, I have only done it a handful of times,” he explained. “But I will still give Liège a go – it is a course that suits me down to the ground. It is just the case that I don’t know how I will be in that last 20 or 30 kilometres.”

He can take encouragement from his eight place in the Giro di Lombardia, however. “Obviously Lombardy showed I can race 240 kilometres,” he said, thinking back to last October and his strong ride there. “So I will definitely give 260 a crack.”


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