Dan Martin hits the reset button at the Dauphiné

Cannondale Garmin rider looking to get back on track for Tour de France

There is little in the way of middle ground for Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) when it comes to racing. On his day he can be scintillatingly brilliant but rarely does the Irishman just meander through races without some major incident.

If he's not winning Classics or Tour stages he's picking himself up off the deck, or suffering through races with broken ribs, as he did at this year's Tour de Romandie.

Now at the Dauphiné as part of a strong Cannondale-Garmin outfit, Martin is readying himself for another crack at the Tour de France, a race where he's tasted success in the past. After a tumultuous spring campaign that ended in disappointment perhaps a quiet - even peaceful - Dauphiné is just what Martin requires.

"Now I've managed to reset," he tells Cyclingnews as we sit with him on the front lawn of the team's hotel after stage 2.

"I went away, got in some training in the mountains and now I'm ready for this race. I've not been able to train super hard because of my ribs, so there's not been that much intensity but I think that everyone is in the same boat. It just means that I'm in a good position for the Tour. I don't know where I'm at in terms of power on the climbs but we'll find out later in this race."

A team time trial will decide the fate of stage 3 – not Martin's most enjoyable terrain – but the parcours rises in the second half of the race, with mountain stages providing the battleground for Martin to really assess his form. One suspects, however, that the scars of the spring – he crashed out of both Flèche and Liège – are still a little tender.

"It's been a rough and tumble year," he admits, drawing us back to his crash in the opening time trial from last year's Giro d'Italia.

"The Ardennes finished off the year of hell off if you start with Belfast and the Giro last year. It's almost been a complete year of shit but I'm in the same position that I went into the Vuelta and Lombardia with. The results and form returned in spectacular fashion then, and obviously we're hoping for the same again this time."

That 'year of hell' still consisted of a fine win in Lombardia, and a consistent rider in the Vuelta that netted a top ten place but the experiences and setbacks from the last twelve months have fortified an already robust character with a will to win.

"Mentally I'm strong character and I know that despite the results being what they are, I'm not a bad bike rider," he says.

"If I have a clear run at things then I'm up there with the best guys. My time will come at some point this year.'

Until now Martin had not spoken at length about the Ardennes campaign – his falls or how he raced through Romandie despite his smashed ribs and with so many targets on the horizon that's somewhat understandable.

"I'm in one piece again. The crash at Liège really hurt, not just because of the two ribs that I broke but because I'd just managed to get myself back in the game after my crash in Flèche, and because I didn't know whether I would start or not."

"It was touch and go but we got my body back together and I was looking forward to using my form in Liège. I was absolutely flying and every year we go into that big descent before La Redoute thinking that a crash could happen and this year it did."

"I hit my head pretty hard but it wasn't actually a concussion. We thought that it might be but it turned out that it was my neck so it took a bit of work with the chiropractor. Once that was sorted the headache went away."

He then battled through Romandie, unaware at the time that he was racing with broken ribs. Unsurprisingly, the race yielded little in terms of individual results but Martin says he was willing to sacrifice his own chances for the team's objectives.

"We didn't know they were broken. We did the x-ray and it didn't show anything and we were hoping I could get better towards the end of the race but it never happened. It was still a good training week and I managed to pay back the team by working for them. They'd worked for me in the Ardennes so I wanted to repay them. It was an art in suffering for me, but one I could do."

When it's suggested that he never makes it easy for himself Martin smiles. "Maybe. But I've always said that I've had a lot of good luck in my career but this year it's been the opposite. It will turn though and we'll bounce back."

Martin certainly does have that 'bouncebackability' that is often lauded around in soccer studies for a player or team who can pick themselves up from defeat and go again, and while the Dauhpiné is the current setting for Martin and his GC teammate Andrew Talansky, the bigger picture includes the Tour de France.

"I don't yet know you'd have to ask the team management on that," he says when asked about Tour leadership. Will it be him or Talansky, and what of Ryder Hesjedal's ambition?

"I think Andrew will be the main GC guy and then Ryder and I will look for stage wins but you're not going to turn down a shot at GC. It's quite exciting going into a race like that with three guys capable of riding GC, especially with the first week being what it is. There's so many crosswind, dodgy stages, and it could be carnage again. Having options could play in our favour." 

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