Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) is never one to make sweeping statements on the eve of a Grand Tour. Instead, the Irishman prefers to focus on the steady accumulation of brush-strokes that gradually form the bigger picture, and the mantra as he faces into the Giro d’Italia, is as familiar as it is pragmatic.
“I think it’s the same as last year at the Tour: it’s 21 one-day races, because you can’t win it in one day but you can lose the race on any day,” Martin told Cyclingnews in Belfast on Wednesday. “For me, it’s always better to be concentrated every day. Obviously I’m not going to win the sprint stages but every day is a new day and you have to stay focused. And the easiest way to do that is not to look too far ahead.”
Martin could be forgiven if he had his fill of one-day racing following his ill fortune in the finale of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Not only did his crash in the finishing straight of La Doyenne dash his hopes of a second successive win, it also threatened to impact on his preparation for the Giro.
“That crash in Liège was a bit heavier than it looked. I was pretty banged up and I think you’ll see at the team presentation that I’ve got some war wounds from that still,” he said. “It wasn’t ideal preparation. I haven’t been able to train much this week but I think that will come in handy in the last week. I’m definitely going into the race fresher. As far as a GC result, it’s up in the air. I’m just going to do my best and it depends on how good the other guys’ best is.”
There may yet be a silver lining to the enforced reduction to Martin’s training load in the ten days that separated his Ardennes campaign from his arrival in Belfast for the start of the Giro. “I definitely hurt myself at Liège, I needed a couple of days off the bike just to cure that but physically now I’m 100 per cent,” he said.
“Last week I had to take it easy but I’ve had a difficult few weeks of training. I did Tirreno, Catalunya, two weeks at altitude and then went directly to the Ardennes. It’s been a heavy few weeks but I think I needed that week’s rest. If anything I’m probably in better form now than I was before.”
Martin broke with the habit of a career by undertaking a two-week training camp at altitude ahead of Amstel Gold Race. While he acknowledged that his stint in Sierra Nevada was carried out with the general classification of the Giro in mind, he was pleasantly surprised to find that it did not have an adverse effect on his performances in the Ardennes classics.
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“I wasn’t feeling great but I was super strong. I don’t know if that’s to do with the altitude. Obviously I think the altitude was more focused on this race, and I’ve heard that it takes away from your explosiveness a bit but it didn’t really seem to do that to me at the Ardennes. I still felt pretty explosive. We’re still learning and that’s what’s so exciting.”
Martin’s best overall finish in a grand tour to date came at the 2011 Vuelta a España, when he reached Madrid in 13th place overall. He was on course to better that display at last year’s Tour only to fall ill in the final days in the Alps, but he is confident that he has the capacity to put together a consistent three weeks – or 21 single days – of racing between now and the finish of the Giro in Trieste on June 2.
“I was in 7th or 8th position in the Tour last year until 3 days to go, so I know I can race for three weeks,” Martin said. “My result depends more on the other guys and less on me. I’m just going to do the best I can. If the other guys are better than me, then they beat me, but I’m just going to look after what I’m doing. It’s as simple as that. We’ll see the result in Trieste.”
Before that, of course, Martin has three days in front of his home support in Ireland, an experience he expects to be “surreal.” “Selfishly I kind of wish it was a prologue, so I could do it on my own,” he said of Friday’s opening team time trial. “But I’ve got the best group of guys to share the experience of racing through the streets of Belfast with and hopefully through a wall of noise.”
While his fellow overall contenders spoke gravely of the danger posed by the expected wind and rain in Ireland over the coming days, Martin pointed to a less obvious but no less insidious threat – cat’s eyes, the retroflective road safety devices coming on Irish roads.
“Those damn cat’s eyes are a pain – you hit those in the wet with 200 guys who are not used to them, they can be quite treacherous,” Martin said. “Staying out of trouble is the main thing.”