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"I think it suits my style because you have to be really switched on every day. It's probably the course that relates best to the 21 one-day races in-a-row philosophy. I've got experience and I know how to ride that climb (Mur...

Photo: Sirotti








15.11.2014 @ 14:03 Posted by Joseph Doherty

In the space of a month, Dan Martin turned what many people were calling a disastrous season into a great one, when he finished seventh in the Vuelta on GC, his first Grand Tour top ten, as well as winning the Tour of Lombardy and taking second on GC at the Tour of Beijing and winning the stage’s summit finish to Miaofeng Mountain.


This is down to Martin’s ability to keep looking forward and not to dwell on his big crash in the Giro as well as his problems in Catalunya and the Ardennes.


"I don't dwell on things so much, so I wasn't putting pressure on myself to save my season. Before Lombardy a lot of people were saying it to me, but it was really just another race," Martin tells Cyclingnews over the phone from Girona, finally at rest after a trying but ultimately successful campaign.


"All you need is one good result a year and it's deemed quite a success," he deadpans. "No, I think I've learned a lot of lessons but I don't really look at it in terms of a good season or a bad season, or whatever. Every year is a good year because you learn different things and you grow as a person. And this year, I think I've learned from having the injury and fighting back from that."


But Martin had to endure some tough times on the bike in 2014, crashing on the final corner of Liege-Bastogne-Liege when he looked like he would retain his crown and crashing during the team time trial at the Giro, taking out half of his team and breaking his collarbone. Martin never let his head go down (apart from a short period after the Giro) and remained positive about his season.


“I kind of put my head in the sand and that's not good to do. Yeah, it happened but you can't change it," he explains. "If the crash is your fault then you've got a bit more regret but both times I was sitting on the floor asking myself what had happened, so I think that makes it a lot easier to get over."


He performed the same sort of attack in Lombardy as he did in Liege, having a gap going into the final corner, but this time he kept himself upright and took a great victory. "It's only a race, you've got nothing to lose so you might as well try to win," he said.


Martin also crashed during the Vuelta a Espana on the stage to Lagos de Covadonga, forcing himself to take a course of antibiotics that weakened his system, making his seventh place even more impressive.


"I had that crash towards the end and the antibiotics really took it out of me. I really felt that in the two weeks after the race, when I was just a shell," he recalls. "It's been overshadowed a bit in the outside world because I'm the only one who knows what I went through in that last week, and that's why it gives me an incredible amount of satisfaction."


Martin finally captured his Grand Tour top ten at the Vuelta, which he has always targeted at a Grand Tour but was never able to achieve due to crashes or illness among other things. People had started to doubt his ability to perform on GC, but Martin never lost confidence in himself.


"It's not really a confidence thing about aiming for GC, it's just that mentally I cope better when I'm not looking too far ahead. I still prefer one-day races and shorter stage races because in grand tours you get tired at the end and I don't enjoy that feeling of racing fatigued," he says.


"I'd still prefer to go in to the race riding aggressively and not miss opportunities, and I think you can do both – look for stages and ride for the overall. I'm not one to state ambitions, but I'm never going to a Grand Tour and not aiming to ride GC either,” he said when asked if he can only target stage wins or GC separately.


Another Grand Tour route that suits Martin is the 2-15 Tour de France, and he has fond memories of his last participation, where he won stage nine to Bagneres de Bigorre. While Martin will target GC, the stage that finishes on the Mur de Huy is one he really wants to win, after finishing second on the climb in Fleche Wallonne this year.


"I think it suits my style because you have to be really switched on every day. It's probably the course that relates best to the 21 one-day races in-a-row philosophy," he says, with a particular eye to the haul up the Mur de Huy on stage 3. "I've got experience and I know how to ride that climb, so it could pay dividends."


In 2015, Martin will ride for the Cannondale-Garmin team, which has undergone a big change in personnel this offseason, with ten new riders arriving and names like David Millar, Fabian Wegmann, Nick Nuyens and Johan Vansummeren all departing.


"The philosophy is going to stay the same. I think it's just over a 40 per cent change in riders but the staff is going to stay the same," he says. "The style of racing and the atmosphere on the team, we'll try and keep them the same."


One thing Martin will have to face is the responsibility of being a big leader on the team, especially since the team is so young, with 16 of the 27 riders currently 25 or under. However, he faced the responsibility this year and will be more confident in his role in 2015.


"Even last year, I was the guy who was getting results but I wasn't so much the leader. I was still hiding behind guys but now I'm a figurehead of the team and I'm taking on more responsibility in terms of tactics and motivating the guys," he says. "It was a bit intimidating at the start of the year but I've had to learn how to be a better communicator."


Martin thinks he did a good job, but the one time he was disappointed in himself in his role was when he abandoned the Giro d’Italia.


"I needed to be there for my teammates, I needed to be more supportive of them after crashing out. Immediately afterwards, I wasn't in the best mental state to be the leader I should have been, that figurehead to support the guys," he says. "But I'm learning all the time."


"I think we riders do have a lot more input into tactics and we discuss things a lot more," Martin says, adding with a laugh: "It's perhaps more of a democracy than a dictatorship. We have a lot more freedom in the way we express ourselves, in the way we ride and also in the team environment."


Martin is up for contract renewal at the end of 2015 and it is highly likely that every single WorldTour team will approach the Irishman due to his talent and versatility. But he says that he is unlikely to move away from the team but that he isn’t 100% guaranteed to stay there either.


"I'm up for contract at the end of 2015 and I am talking with the team but never say never," he says. "Obviously it's almost like family at this point on this team and I've been very happy here and very successful. We don't know how that will change next year with the new sponsors coming in. That atmosphere could always change. At this moment in time, I'm really quite happy here."


And will his contract be a cause for distraction in 2015?


"I pay someone else to think about that," he quips. He will be focusing instead on preparing himself for the Ardennes Classics, where an altitude camp in 2014 didn’t work for him.


"I had massive strength in my legs but I didn't feel as explosive or a snappy as usual at Amstel Gold Race," he says. "I'd only been down at sea level for three days and it was too soon. I definitely think it has a place in my training but I need to learn how to use it a bit differently. I don't think I'll do it before the Ardennes next year, but maybe before the Tour."




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