Dan Martin takes breakthrough Classics win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Garmin rider praises team's anti-doping stance

Victory for Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) in Liege-Bastogne-Liege is a breakthrough Classics win in what continues to be a breakthrough year.

After victory in the Volta a Catalunya, a race the 26-year-old had twice taken a podium in the past, a fifth in Liege last year, a near-miss in Lombardy last autumn and fourth in the Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday, Martin could finally nail his first major Monument - and Ireland’s first in La Doyenne since 1989.

“I woke up this morning and called my father and said this is one of eight more chances I’ve got to win this race,” Martin - now 26 and who is, he says, contemplating retirement at around 34. “But I’ve come up a level this year, it's a golden year for me, and I was ready to try and go for it today.”

“At the same time, this year Garmin-Sharp have got a lot of confidence in me now, there's been a great atmosphere in the team, the guys have been telling me all week that I’ve got a good chance of winning today and that extra belief I have from them helps give me an extra edge.”

Martin could not heap enough praise on his team-mates shoulders for their work supporting him. But it was no surprise that he highlighted the contribution by Ryder Hesjedal, the 2012 Giro winner. Instrumental in his Volta a Catalunya win, Hesjedal was once again a key player in the Garmin-Sharp game at Liege, attacking over the top of the Cote de Colonster and staying clear right until the foot of Saint-Nicolas. As if that was not enough, Hesjdal’s hard work in the final break of six meant Martin was that little bit more rested when it came to getting across to Rodriguez and then going clear.

“The whole team rode amazing, I was protected all day. We’d agreed this morning that we would both be protected riders and that Ryder would go for a longer move,” Martin said. “Then the other teams missed him going and he was stuck out there.”

“I had to follow attacks behind on the Saint Nicolas, and he kept the pace high. I’m just sorry I won’t be able to go to the Giro to help him win it again.”

Discussing that crucial final kilometer, Martin said "When I got across to Rodriguez, I didn't want to leave it to a sprint, I knew I'd have to try and surprise Rodriguez. I had to go on the attack to make sure I got it."

Apart from his team-mates, Martin also paid tribute to the contribution by Eric Van Lancker, Garmin’s sports director who won Liege himself in 1990, to his success. “He knows Liege so well, his experience really helped me a lot and because he loves this race so much. Having him there really helps my own motivation.”

Martin was keen to emphasise the importance of Garmin-Sharp’s strong anti-doping line both for himself and in terms of what his victory meant in broader terms.

“A lot of people can see that we’ve got an incredibly strong anti-doping policy and to be able to win this is just amazing. It’s like David [Millar’s] win in the Tour last year or Ryder’s win in the Giro, it’s helped me to know it’s possible to win clean. And this is a sign of how things are changing for the better.”

“We still have this underdog status, we don’t win very often but when we do win it’s big. The team’s strong anti-doping philosophy is one very important reason why I’m in this team, it’s a very open team that race with their hearts on their sleeves.”

Looking ahead, Martin says that he still doesn’t know if he’s a Grand Tour rider, and that he has still got some way to go on improving his time trialling before that becomes clear. But when it comes to his ability to follow Sean Kelly’s wheel tracks in the Ardennes, this Sunday has more than confirmed that for Martin.

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