Martin attacked in the final kilometre of Sunday’s race, distancing his main rivals with a surge of speed just as the main contenders hesitated on the approach to the line. It was a do-or-die move that paid off handsomely, turning around what had been a year of disappointment for Martin after a series of crashes.
The win also signified Martin’s second Monument after his Liège-Bastogne-Liège title from 2013.
“He won it really intelligently and tactically he played it perfectly,” Kelly told Cyclingnews.
“He just followed and followed and was there with the top guys in the end. At the perfect moment when there was a little bit of a slow down he gave it everything and in the end he won it comfortably.”
Kelly, arguably one of the sport’s most complete riders, won every Monument Classic bar the Tour of Flanders, with three wins at the Tour of Lombardy (1983, 1985 and 1991), and two titles each in Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. His tactical awareness was one of his greatest strengths as a rider and he sees similarities between himself and 28-year-old Martin.
“He’s able to read a race but he’s also able to carry out the tactics needed and that’s the difficult part. At the end of a big Classic it’s easy to say what you need to do when you’re sitting down the night before in your team briefing but when you’re in that position at the end of the race there aren’t many guys who can keep their cool, and that’s what he’s got. He can see the moment and then seize it. Some riders don’t have that ability and will never have it," Kelly said.
“When you look at the year, it had been a disastrous one with bad luck, with the Liège and Giro crashes. He crashed in the Vuelta too and then again at Worlds but after all that bad luck, to get that win in the final Classic of the year, it turns the season into a great one.”
Martin’s approach to the 2015 season is still to be finalised but Kelly believes that the Garmin rider should continue to target one-day events as well as stage races. This year Martin built his Grand Tour ambitions around the Giro d’Italia but crashed out in the opening team time trial. He bounced back at the Vuelta later in the year and claimed seventh overall.
“I think he can do both stage races and one days. Definitely. The type of Classics he targets like Lombardia, Liège, Amstel, and maybe Flèche, are all winnable. And I can see him mixing those targets with GC at a grand tour. I think the difficulty could be in races like Milan San-Remo, where sprinters are in the hunt for the win. That gives you an idea of the race style, and it’s not maybe for Dan because Lombardia and Liège give you more of a selection process.”
Dan Martin’s palmares
National road title
Route du Sud
Stage 5 Tour de Pologne
Overall Tour de Pologne
Tre Valli Varesine
Giro della Toscana
Stage 6 Tour de Pologne
Stage 9 Vuelta a España
Stage 4 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya
Overall Volta Ciclista a Catalunya
Stage 9 Tour de France