Dan Martin slumped over bike beyond the finish line of Gran Piemonte, in pain after going deep trying to chase Egan Bernal, bloodied and bruised after a mid-race crash, and fatigued after riding three hard Italian races in just five days. But he will get up to do it all again at Il Lombardia on Saturday, ending his 2019 season and his time at
UAE Team Emirates before moving to the Israel Cycling Academy team for 2020.
Like Bernal, Martin is one of only a few Tour de France riders still racing hard and still chasing success in the Italian Classics. He would have perhaps preferred a less intense build-up to Il Lombardia but as ever, he is not one to complain.
"I've never raced this hard so close to Il Lombardia before," he said. "I've done three other races this week and they've all been tough. But we'll see what we can do. Il Lombardia is my last race for UAE Team Emirates, and I want to go out on a high and honour this jersey."
Martin finished 18th at the Giro dell'Emilia, distanced by Primoz Roglic's final charge on the climb to San Luca. He was in the decisive attack at Tre Valli Varesine on Tuesday, only to follow the television motorbike down the wrong road with all the other contenders. That allowed Roglic to win again despite him missing the attack.
On the 10km climb up to Oropa finish of Gran Piemonte, Martin was one of the last riders to be distanced by Bernal and teammate Ivan Sosa as they rode to take first and second. Martin eventually finished fifth at 11 seconds, behind Nans Peters (AG2R La Mondiale) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).
"I really wanted to try to win because it’s a beautiful finish up here. I just wasn't good enough. My legs were good and I felt good but Egan was so strong that he just rode me off the wheel," Martin admitted.
"My wrist is a bit sore after sliding out on a corner, and that's not great 48 hours before ll Lombardia but I'll be okay.
"I've got to thank the team, we've had some good experiences together. Obviously things don’t always go your way, but I've learnt about myself and I think the team's learnt a lot too. We can both move on and take that experience to the next chapter."
Going deep into the season at il Lombardia
Martin won Il Lombardia in 2014, when 'The Race of the Falling Leaves' finished in Bergamo. This year the 243km monument Classic goes in the opposite direction and finishes in Como after the climbs to Madonna del Ghisallo, the steep Muro di Sormano, the often decisive Civiglio.
The very late San Fermo della Battaglia climb is back this year offering a launch pad for attacks. Martin's 2014 victory, his aggressive racing style and his current form means the Irishman is one of the favourites, along with Bernal, Roglic, Alejandro Valverde, Michael Woods and Vincenzo Nibali.
"Lombardia is going to be interesting for me," Martin suggested. "It's difficult to know how you're going to go so deep into the season. One day you wake up feeling good and then another you wake up bad. Today I woke up feeling rubbish but then felt good on the bike. Lets hope that happens on Saturday. We've got a solid team, and Diego Ulissi is going well too."
Martin wants to end his season on a high and sign off from UAE Team Emirates on a positive note.
"I'm here even in October because I really enjoy racing," he said. "After the Tour I took a break to recover and then rode the Deutschland Tour and went to Canada for the two WorldTour races. I took pleasure out of working for the team. I wanted to give something back and ride for Ulissi."
Martin's two seasons at UAE Team Emirates have not been his best. He won a stage at the 2018 Tour de France and suffered with a back injury but still won the super combatif prize. This year he made less of an impression, often frustrated by something 'blocking' his performance. Norwegian television suggesting it was related to the team's sports drink and also affected Alexander Kristoff.
Martin prefers to gloss over the problems and frustrations of the past two years with a show of class. He has signed a two-year contract with Israel Cycling Academy and will lead the team in the hilly Classics and perhaps the Tour de France after the team secured a place in the 2020 WorldTour by taking over the Katusha-Alpecin team and merging the rosters. He is now 33 and a father of two young twins but is still keen to race hard.
"It's been a good two years," Martin said of his spell at UAE Team Emirates.