Dan Martin Interview: Aiming for strong ride in GP Ouest France, and beyond
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dan Martin Interview: Aiming for strong ride in GP Ouest France, and beyond

by Shane Stokes at 8:42 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Giro di Lombardia, Tour of Poland
After three wins in August, Irish climber talks about plans for rest of the season

Dan MartinGarmin Transitions rider Daniel Martin will look for a late birthday gift to himself today when he lines out in the GP Ouest France in Plouay. The ProTour race takes place two days after he turned 24, and he is determined to try to improve on a strong performance last year.

Twelve months ago, Martin made it into the winning selection with four others – Simon Gerrans (Cervelo Test Team), Pierrick Fedrigo (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Paul Martens (Rabobank) and Anthony Roux (Française Des Jeux). They clipped away inside the final six kilometres and fought it out for the victory. Martin took fifth, but said afterwards that he felt he could have topped the podium had he not got his gearing wrong. “With 75metres to go I was winning, but I overgeared the sprint,” he said.

He has shown sparkling form of late and is a stronger rider than he was this time last year. He wants to notch up what would be his fourth win of the season, but also realises he will have to pick the moves perfectly. “It is obviously a really important race for the team in the ProTour, and it is a race I really love as well,” he told VeloNation this week. “That said, tactically Plouay is a difficult race to read, so we will have to see how it goes.”

His Garmin Transitions team manager Jonathan Vaughters agrees that this is the case, and also said that Martin may not have as much freedom as before. “The thing with Dan at Plouay this year is that he is going to be much more marked than he was last time,” he told VeloNation. “It will be harder for him to get away.

“But he is a born winner. He figures out…he is very intellectually gifted too, he figures out how to win even when the odds are stacked against him. So you never know.”

Growing as a rider:

Vaughters has long believed in Martin’s potential as a rider and tried to get him on board the team prior to the 2007 season. The Irishman was just 21 at the time and ultimately opted to spend one more year in the amateur ranks with VC La Pomme, then make the step up to the top ranks. He did that with Garmin in 2008 and quickly got up to speed, showing good form early on and then winning the Route du Sud in June.

The race, which Vaughters himself won nine years earlier, showed that the rider could both climb and handle the pressure to contend for big results. He went on to take the Irish road race championship later that month with a superb solo effort in the closing stages.

Dan MartinMartin then finished second in the Volta a Catalunya in 2009, placed fifth in Plouay and was eighth in the Giro di Lombardia. He was clearly a very gifted young rider, but had to wait over two years after that championship triumph to notch up his next big win.

That came in the Tour of Poland earlier this month, where he soloed to victory on the toughest mountain stage and seized the yellow jersey. He raised his victory tally for the year to two when he won the overall classification in the race, and then notched up number three last Tuesday when he beat Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago - CSF Inox) to win the Tre Valli Varesini.

It is that rich vein of form that he hopes to tap into again today. “The last couple of laps I felt incredible,” he said of Tuesday’s race. “The strength I have got now is amazing. I have always really loved one day races and racing in Italy has always been good to me.

“Obviously after Poland I had to try to take it really easy for the week and try to relax. It was more mentally rather than physically, as there was a lot of stress in the last three days in Poland. I went to see some family down the coast for a bit and really relaxed.

“I think I paid for that at the start of the race [the Tre Valli Varesini] but I think that played to my benefit as I kept my powder as dry as possible all day. It wasn’t really planned that I would go for the win, but the opportunities don’t come along very often in cycling and you have to take them when they do come. I definitely made the most of it.

“It was very tactical as there were a lot of Italian guys and they all really want to win this race. I am still quite an unknown in this kind of peloton, so maybe they just hesitated. I got the gap and that is when the strength and good form that I have had in the last few weeks kicked in. It was just me and Pozzovivo at the end - I know he is a very good rider from the Brixia Tour, where he beat me, but I managed to turn the tables and beat him. It was good to get a bit of revenge, and some of those names in the top ten behind me made it great to win.”

Martin followed that race up by riding the Coppa Agostoni and Coppa Bernocchi events. He had a go in the former, attacking midway through on the tough Madonna del Ghisallo climb, which also features in the Giro di Lombardia. Those in the move were caught, but he was satisfied with the workout he got and how it would help him prepare for today’s race.

Goals for the remainder of the season:

Whatever happens in Plouay, Martin plans on metering out his form for the rest of the year. He’s obviously one of the top Garmin riders at present and if he was on another team, he could well have been put down to ride the Vuelta a España. However the team is careful with developing young talent and realises that doing too much, too soon could hamper his progression.

Dan Martin“I have done a lot of racing and to go into the Vuelta might be damaging for the future,” he said. “We have to look at the long term more than the short term, and just enjoy it a bit as well. I have had quite a stressful last couple of weeks now. I am a bit mentally tired now, to be honest…well, not really mentally tired, as it has been so much fun having this form. But the Vuelta would require a really fresh body and mind. I think if I had to ride it, I would be ready, but if I am not, I can switch off a bit.”

Instead, he is likely to plan things to be at the best possible form for his big end of season goal, the Tour of Lombardy. He rode it for the first time last season and taking eighth convinced him that he can do very well there in the future.

“At the moment, I am doing the Tour of Britain, try to use that as preparation,” he said, when asked about his plans after the GP Ouest France. “I don’t think I can keep this form until Lombardia, but maybe I can just have a little bit of an off season after Plouay, then try to get a good week’s racing in at the Tour of Britain.

“Obviously I don’t ride any races without thinking of doing something in it, but I’ll head there, see how it goes, and then build up for the Tour of Lombardia and that week of Italian races.”

His intention to focus on the big end of season Classic means that he will sacrifice the chance to ride the world road race championships in Australia. The Irish team will be comprised of Nicolas Roche, his first cousin who placed 15th in the Tour de France, and the veteran rider David McCann, who has been having a very good season in Asia. A third rider will be named closer to the worlds, but Martin is certain that he doesn’t want to head to Australia.

“It is not really the course…I have heard that this course is actually quite hard,” he explained. “But I don’t think there is any reason to go to the worlds unless you are going to the Vuelta, to be honest. It comes two weeks after the finish and those guys are going to be flying after they ride a three week race.

“Also, it is a hell of a lot of travelling to be doing that late in the season. Historically I don’t really react well to that – when I take the trip across the Atlantic with the team, it takes me a good few days to get over it. It is not so much the trip over there, because we would go with plenty of time, but it is more the trip back before the Giro di Lombardia. We would get back and it would only be three days before Emilia and that is too short. I would rather just stay in Europe and really just focus on those races at the end of the year.”

He’s certain that he’s making the right choice. “I think Lombardia is a lot about freshness and motivation, and I will definitely be motivated for that race,” he promised.

As much as it is about his climbing ability, that kind of mental approach is also something that marks him out as a rider who will achieve big things in the sport. He’s just turned 24, yet has a confidence and a focus that is often not seen until much later.That plus his clear climbing ability bodes well for the years ahead.


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