A late front wheel puncture wrecked Dan Martin's chances in Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, just when the UAE Team Emirates racer was in the thick of the race action and with only eight kilometres left to go. All this in the first Ardennes Classics where he felt he was back at a top racing level, too.
"You couldn't make it up," Martin told Cyclingnews with a wry smile as he warmed down outside the team bus. "In fact, the way this year's gone in general you couldn't make it up."
Martin had been on the attack with Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), and at the point where he punctured, there were only 15 riders left in the front group. It was another round of bad luck for the Irishman in a race where he has taken one of his most significant victories, in 2013, but also where he crashed on the final corner in 2014 when the win was within his grasp.
Fast forward another four years, and another round of bad luck dashed Martin's chances - and this after UAE Team Emirates had ridden very hard in the early part of the race, keeping the bunch in contention.
"In some ways, I'm happy because I was riding well again and the team did an incredible job, we're one of the best teams in the world and today we rode like it."
[Rory] Sutherland had raced notably well in the middle section of the race, he agreed, "and Matteo Bono, in the first part as well, the whole team...
"Even though we don't have the best results yet this year, the team fully believe in me, and that gave me a little bit extra when I needed it at the finale. I was feeling really good, but then we know what happened.
"I expected that kind of stalemate, and then someone would try to get away. I tried to get away, but when you're closely marked like I was, it's not so easy."
So late in the game, Martin agreed, it was a case of game over. "But then I was left chasing in the group of 15; everybody was just cooked by that point, it was like a slow-motion race to the finish." He finally crossed the line in 18th place.
Next up for Martin will be the Tour de Romandie where he hopes to be able to make the most of his rising form in a way that could not happen in Liege. As he put it, "I've got the form, so I want to try and use it."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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