Dan Martin has spent the last few days in the Vuelta a España riding for team-mate Tom Danielson, who currently sits fourth overall in the race. It is the first Grand Tour for the Irishman and while he’s tired, he’s also been riding solidly. The riders face three hard days in the mountains between now and Sunday evening, and he’s continuing to learn from the experience.
“Things are going as well as can be expected,” Martin told Cyclingnews on Thursday evening. “It has been a hard race so far, as regards the lack of recovery. It is a new experience for me, doing so many 200-kilometre, six-hour stages in a row. I’ve never done that before. It is all unknown territory…In fact, I’ve pretty much never had a rest day before, so it is all new.
“I am just enjoying the experience and it is great having Tom to ride for as well, as it gives me focus in the race - something to aim for, something to do.”
Martin, as one of the best climbers in the Garmin Slipstream line-up, is doing everything he can to help Danielson maintain – or improve on – his fourth place overall. “At the moment, everything is completely for him,” he said, ruling out any thoughts of getting into a break and chasing a stage. “Obviously that could change, depending on how things go for him, but at the moment my goal is just to stay with Tom as long as possible, giving him whatever he needs, be it bottles or just helping him out.”
“It is a really good experience for me, the way I look at it. I am very young, I don’t need to chase stage wins. I’m in my first Grand Tour, there are so many older guys here and it is a great opportunity for me to work for a leader, to practice doing that.”
Martin is known as an ambitious rider, and is one who has already highlighted his talent with a debut season victory in the Route du Sud, as well as a second placing on a mountain stage and second overall in this year’s Vuelta a Burgos. He said that he still has high expectations of himself, but that in this race those goals are to ride as well as possible in a supporting role for his elder team-mate.
“There was never really any pressure,” the Garmin-Slipstream rider said of his mental approach leading into the Vuelta. “It really was a wait and see attitude. That is the great thing about this team at the moment. We came here saying [simply] that we were going to win a stage and we pulled that off.”
Tyler Farrar’s win immediately prior to the second rest day has boosted the mood on the team, particularly as it came on a stage where they didn’t expect him to be in the running for success. “The guys worked so hard to lead him out on the flat stages, and nothing quite clicked. And then on a stage we didn’t really expect, it just kind of happened. Tyler had to work so hard to get over that last climb and then to get back the way he did and still have the legs to sprint was an incredible ride, and a great way to finish the first half of the tour.
“ Now we have got the stage win we were looking for, and everything now is a bonus. Obviously it would be a massive bonus with Tom maybe getting to the podium.”
A top Vuelta placing for Danielson?
Team-mate Danielson finished sixth in the 2006 Vuelta, also taking a stage win that year. He’s had some difficult years since, with injury and illness hampering his form. However he’s clearly back in business, and both he and Martin hope that he can hold onto high placing for the rest of the race.
According to the latter, the team was not sure what to expect from him heading into the race. “We knew he was going well after Burgos, but obviously the Tour of Spain is at a totally different level. All of the best guys try to be at their best form for this race, with riders like Basso and Valverde coming into it aiming to win.
“We didn’t really know what to expect from Tom. He definitely came here as the leader and from day one we have been working to protect him as much as possible before the mountains. Once into them, he’s been able to stay with the best guys so far. So hopefully he can build on that and finish off the job, carrying on keeping a high overall position.
“The days ahead are going to be very difficult, but it is the same for everybody. Tom has shown over eleven days that he is the fourth-best rider in the race. There is no reason why he can’t continue that. Obviously we are hoping to get him through to the end, but if it doesn’t happen, it is not the end of the world. We will have done our best, we will have no regrets because we will have done everything possible to help him out.”
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