On Sunday Dan Martin will bring his time at Slipstream Sports to a close with his final race for Cannondale-Garmin. As it happens, the Tour of Lombardy was Martin’s last major one-day success, when in 2014 he attacked before the line to take his second Monument win.
This time around, and after an injury-induced break, Martin heads into Lombardy with his form as somewhat of an unknown. He has only raced once – Milan-Turin – since his crash and abandonment at the Vuelta a Espana last month, but if his 14th place finish on Thursday is anything to go by he will still start Lombardy as a rider to watch.
“It’s a race that I’ve done well in a number of times and one that I really enjoy,” Martin told Cyclingnews from his hotel room on Friday.
“I’m not feeling any pressure at all and simply enjoying the race gives me the greatest motivation of all. I love riding the race, and it’s going to be my last one with Slipstream Sports. It’s going to be an emotional day for a number of reasons.”
After crashing out of the Vuelta last month Martin took roughly a week off the bike and spent time at altitude in preparation of Sunday’s race. It wasn’t entirely clear that he would be fit or healthy enough, but Thursday’s race proved that his fitness is there. Lombardy, of course, is no walk in the park, and in terms of distance and terrain, it’s far harder than Milan Turin. However, Martin is desperate to end his season on some form of a high, especially with it being his last hit-out for Cannondale.
“I’ve not trained for the last five weeks just so that I can ride round,” he said. “Tomorrow is really important to me and I’ve had it in the back of my mind for the last three weeks. I’ve been training in Andorra, doing a lot of climbing, and I’m really strong. It’s just a case of whether I can make that race-winning move.
“It’s been a long few weeks, obviously, but I’m the defending champion at Lombardy so how can I not be motivated. I’ve been training really hard but I know that’s not the same as racing.
“Yesterday was a massive shock to the system but it went better than expected. I lacked some of the intensity and I couldn’t follow the attacks on the climb, but my tempo was good enough to be there or thereabouts. I’m pretty optimistic about Sunday but obviously it’s completely different race and having not raced for five weeks it’s going to be hard. It’s always hard but I’ve done the best I could.”
Martin’s chances will not just come down to his legs, or those of his competitors. The Irishman is still feeling some discomfort in the shoulder that he landed on during his Vuelta crash. He admits that it’s not yet 100 per cent.
“I think I took about six days off the bike because of my shoulder, and it’s not yet 100 per cent, and I could feel it getting a bit tired yesterday, mobility isn’t 100 per cent and I cant pick things up at certain angles, but it’s not causing too much problems. It’s the lack of racing that probably concerns me the most but hopefully it just means that I’m fresher."
Last orders before Etixx
Of course, Martin moves to Etixx-QuickStep this winter and he will meet up with his new teammates at an event in the next few weeks. While all eyes are on Sunday and his last race with a team he’s been with since 2008, he can’t help but ponder what the future will bring. Sunday is the last time he’ll ever race with the team that has helped him win stages in two Grand Tours, and two major one-day Classics. If Slipstream Sports have had a talisman or flag bearer since 2012, it’s been the Irishman.
“I’m very excited about the change. After the last two years I’ve had with the bad luck, the change will do be me good. It’s been a bit strange though, as in hearing the guys here talking bout the Cannondale training camp that’s coming up, and I’m not going to be part of it.
“Saying that, I’m really excited about the future and I’m looking forward to meeting up with the Etixx crew.”