Dan Martin’s hugely impressive track record at the Volta a Catalunya make the Etixx-QuickStep a natural reference point when it comes to looking for top contenders in the race. But this time round, at least, Martin insists that others have a great right to the status of favourite.
After a strong start to the season, winning a stage of the Tour of Valencia, Irishman has just returned to racing in Catalunya after a spell of illness knocked him out of taking part in Tirreno-Adriatico. The subsequent lack of racing miles over the last month makes it harder for Martin to judge his real condition, he believes.
“It’s nice to be back racing, I had a bit of a break after Oman, I got sick in Oman and it lingered for a bit, so I didn’t feel up to Tirreno and it worked out because there were no mountains there this year,” the Etixx-Quick Step rider told Cyclingnews early in the race.
“But I’m happy to be back at this race, because obviously it’s been kind to me in the past.”
That is something of an understatement. Together with double Volta winner Joaquim Rodriguez, Martin is the most prolifically successful racer in the Catalan race taking part this year. For the record, he has a tenth place in the Volta a Catalunya last year, including a fourth place in Wednesday’s stage finish at La Molina.
He was also a winner in Port Ainé, Thursday’s finish, in 2013, when he went on to win the race outright, as well as taking fourth overall in 2012, second overall in 2011 and second overall way back in 2009, too. There’s no doubt that Catalunya is a race for which he feels special affection, as well, given Girona was for many years his adopted city, before Martin moved on to reside in Andorra.
However, Martin insists that “I’m far from being the favourite in this year’s Volta a Catalunya, I really don’t know what my form is obviously you can train as hard as you like but racing’s different.”
“It hurts the legs but it’s a different kind of hurt because of the change of rhythm. We’ll see how it goes, I’m enjoying this, which is what is important.”
His first stage in the Volta a Catalunya, in any case, worked out well. “Stage one was a typical first day of Catalonia, roughly the same kind of terrain and very stressful. Everybody feels good but it’s hard roads, everybody wants to be at the front for the downhills.
“The guys did an incredible job looking after me, it’’s a really young team we’ve got here, but it’s a really cohesive one and we’re working really well together.”
So what would Martin sign on the dotted line when it comes to his objectives for this year’s Catalunya? “I’m not going to say that, I’ll take it as it comes, I’m just going to be as good as I can be, it depends on how good the other guys are.”