Daniel Martin (Garmin-Transitions) insists he will head to the Giro di Lombardia next Sunday with "no pressure" after he displayed strong condition at Italian races this weekend, including second at the Giro dell'Emilia.
"Lombardia's such a long race. The weather could play a part, you've got to have luck and at this stage of the year things can be different from day-to-day. Hopefully things fall into place next weekend and I can get a good result out of it. If not I've had a great season anyway so I'm going into it with no pressure," he told Cyclingnews after the GP Beghelli on Sunday.
The Irishman finished one second behind Robert Gesink (Rabobank) at the Giro dell'Emilia on Saturday, after having led a select group for much of the final two kilometres of the race. It was Martin's first race since mid-September and although disappointed to have missed the top step of the podium, he was pleased with his performance.
"Having not raced since the Tour of Britain it was a bit of an unknown as to how my form was," he said. "But I'd been training pretty well and had great motivation to race. I'm still feeling super-fresh. That's a big part of it at this time of the year. I didn't know how my legs were going to be and although it hurt at the start I recovered during the race. By the last few laps I was feeling really strong."
With an uphill finish to Saturday's race Martin and eventual winner Gesink were the most likely candidates for victory from a 14-man group that also included third-placegetter Michele Scarponi (Androni-Giocattoli), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo), among others. While it was the Dutchman's second successive win at the event, Saturday's race represented Martin's first participation.
"I showed well in the race, it was just a bit disappointing that Gesink had better tactics that me. We're probably as equally as strong as one another but I kinda messed up the last 200 meters. It's all a learning process and it's the first time I've done that race so I'll have to remember that for next year," he said.
Neither rider was able to back-up their performance on Sunday at the GP Beghelli, which was won by Dario Cataldo (Quick Step) ahead of Fuglsang. Martin finished anonymously in the peloton and Gesink withdrawing before the finish. Martin said his conservative approach to Beghelli is part of a plan to that will see him arrive at Lombardia next Sunday on top form. He finished eighth at the ProTour event last year.
"I didn't think [Beghelli] would suit me as well as yesterday and it would have been unrealistic to get a result today after going full-gas yesterday. It was more just a case of getting the kilometres in the legs. It was a really hard today, super-fast and super-aggressive. It never really stopped, I think it was a 46k average or something stupid. It was good to get that in the legs before next weekend."
Asked who he feels will present the toughest challenge at Lombardia, Martin pointed to the results sheets from dell'Emilia and Beghelli. He named Gesink, Fuglsang, Kolobnev and last year's winner Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) as the men to beat.
"I think Fuglsang will be good. He showed he's strong at the moment and he's motivated. Gilbert won it last year and he was obviously going well at worlds," he said. "It's going to be interesting to see how he gets over the travel from Australia but I think he's definitely got the time to recover and he's going to be a contender again.
"Kolobnev was really strong yesterday and Scarponi, too. Anybody who was there yesterday in the front. There's still another week to go but Nibali and Kolobnev had just returned from worlds and they were there at the front so they can only get better than yesterday."
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