Earlier this season, young Irish pro Dan Martin pinpointed Paris-Nice as a race he’d like to do well in, but a crash, a block of endurance training and domestique duties for teammate David Millar saw him end the race 71st overall. The 23-year-old Garmin Transitions rider is not at all fazed by this and is looking forward to his next competitive appointment, Critérium International.
“I felt okay in the race,” he told Cyclingnews. “It is still very early in the year for me and I have never really gone fantastic at the start of the season. My training has been going well. I have been doing a lot of endurance work. I kind of paid for that at the race because it was so intense…I didn’t quite have that top end to be fighting at the front. Riding on the front was no problem, but it was just that top end of form that I was lacking.
“Christian [Vande Velde, 79th overall] was in the same sort of situation as myself. He is in good shape, but he has been doing a lot of endurance work. We are just lacking that top end to be winning races at the moment. It is probably a lack of racing.
With the start of the season getting earlier and earlier, and riders like Alejandro Valverde and Luis León Sanchez already showing form, Martin said that this difference in form made things tougher for those who have chosen a slower build-up towards the Tour.
“A lot of those boys who were at the front, such as the Caisse d’Epargne guys, have been Down Under and been racing for a couple of months already. Paris-Nice is basically our second race,” he said. “So it is partly self-inflicted, but hopefully it will pay dividends in July.”
One of those who didn’t compete in Australia but who still rode well in Paris-Nice was his teammate David Millar. He was seventh in the prologue and held ninth place overall going into the final stage, although he did drop to thirteenth due to a puncture close to the finish in Nice.
Millar traditionally aims for a strong ride in the Race to the Sun and Martin was impressed by his form.
“David loves that race, and he is always so motivated for it…especially when he is doing well, and was in the top ten,” he said. “He did such a strong prologue as well. We knew the course this year would suit him as well; one mountain-top finish with a ten minute effort is pretty good for him.
“He just came up against a very strong field this year. I think there were a lot of guys on really good form. It definitely shows how the peloton is progressing. It is such a high level now going into these races. And obviously all these teams trying to fight for Tour places as well – it makes for some really hard racing.”
Martin told Cyclingnews that he planned to take a short rest, in order to let his body recover from the tough race. “I am just going to make sure I rest properly as there has been a hell of a lot of muscle damage going on in the last week,” he said.
He’s got an interesting distraction, though, as he’s just bought his own apartment in Girona. Martin will spend a couple of days moving. He previously shared with fellow Irish pro Philip Deignan (Cervélo Test Team) and South Africa’s Daryl Impey (RadioShack), but now has his own space in the Catalunyan city.
The next time he’ll pin a number to his back is in the Critérium International, which begins on Saturday week in Corsica. “I have never been to the island, so I am really excited,” he said. “I always wanted to go there. It suits me as well, the race is super hard. I was feeling much better towards the end of Paris-Nice as I was getting over my crash on stage two, and also starting to adapt to the pace. I am going to be a lot stronger from that experience and hopefully will come out of it well. I think I’ll be at a level in Critérium where I can be a lot more at the front of the race.”
As his form builds, so too will his ambitions. He’s got three or four races after that where he should be chasing results. “After Critérium, I’ll do Pais Vasco. I think I can do well there, hopefully in a few stages at least, and then I’ll ride Flèche Wallone and Liège. I think I am going to do Romandie as well.”
Martin doesn’t want to name a specific target in those events, but prefers to say that he’ll ride as well as he can and see what happens. Even so, he expects to keep building upwards.
“Historically my form seems to get better with the more racing I do, so obviously it can only get better from here on in. Paris-Nice was a real early-season test and I think it is going to set everybody up who rode it for a good bit of form in the next few weeks. It is going to be interesting to see how the racing goes.”