Ambitious in outlook, aggressive in tactics
Dan Martin is leader of the Garmin-Sharp team for the Vuelta a Espana (Spanish Grand Tour) and will have the full backing of his team-mates
Garmin-Sharp team leader Dan Martin. ‘There’s 11 summit finishes in the race and that’s something that should be very good for me. I definitely think that I can take at least one stage.’
Stressing the importance of the World Championships and using the Vuelta a Espana as preparation for that, Dan Martin will nonetheless start the three-week race today ambitious in his outlook and aggressive in his tactics.
The Irishman is leader of the Garmin-Sharp team for the Spanish Grand Tour and will have the full backing of the team for the race. He’s looking forward to the chance of showing what he can do, not least because he won a mountain stage of the Tour de France in July and has increased confidence as a result.
“There’s 11 summit finishes in the race and that’s something that should be very good for me,” he said, referring to his ability as a climber. “I definitely think that I can take at least one stage.”
However, Martin also believes that it will take him a few days to get going, both due to the fact that he was ill at the end of the Tour de France and also because he has held back on training to ensure that he finishes the Vuelta strong and is thus in the best shape possible for the World Championships.
“I was really sick at the end of the Tour and it took me a bit longer than expected to get well,” he explained. “I had obviously dug a pretty deep hole to try to finish the Tour. I think it took me 10 or 12 days to actually stop coughing green stuff up and to feel healthy again.
“That was a bit hard mentally as that was my time off after the Tour, and then I had to start getting serious right away. However, I decided to hold back a bit; because I’ve been quite tired since the Tour and because I’m looking at being strong in the third week of this race and in the World Championships, I thought it would be best to just take it really easy and to come into the race fresh.
“So I have done a couple of blocks of hard days, but mostly endurance and not so much hard stuff. Obviously that means that my form is very much unknown as I come into this race. I don’t know where I am going to be in those first couple of days, but I’m quite confident that I am going to come good by the end of the Vuelta.”
Martin made an important breakthrough in the 2011 event, winning the mountain stage to La Covatilla en route to placing 13th overall. Both performances were important for the future direction of his career; the first proved that he could take stage victories in the biggest races while the second showed that he could be strong over three weeks.
While he became ill towards the end of this year’s Tour and dropped out of the top 10 overall, Martin took encouragement from his performance before that point. “I know for sure that I can finish top 10 in the Tour,” he said. “If I hadn’t got sick, it would have happened. And I won a stage, so I can do that again in the future.”
On paper at least, Martin could be one of the riders fighting for the final overall victory. He’s a strong climber and with almost a dozen uphill finishes plus a lack of time trial kilometres, the odds are stacked in favour of a rider with his characteristics.
‘Do my best’
However, he’s adamant that he is not going into the race with that in mind as a goal. “I am not even thinking about GC [general classification]. It is the same as I approached things with the Tour. I am here to just do my best and to chase stages, and if the GC happens, it happens.
“But the fact that there are 11 mountain top finishes definitely suits me. I don’t think I am going to be too bad in the first couple of days. I don’t think I am going win stages then, it will take me a while to get going because I’ve concentrated on being fresh, but I will be okay.
“That said, I do think the GC is a possibility, but I am not going to stress about it. I am not going to tell you that I am going to finish in the top five of GC, as that is not an ambition of mine. My ambition is to be world champion, and this is the best way of preparing for the World Championships.
“If results come my way during the course of this race, then yeah I am going to take them with both hands, but I’ll see how things play out. That said, I am in a very, very relaxed, confident mood coming into this race.”
Fight for gold
Nicolas Roche is also riding the event and will have protected status with the Saxo Tinkoff squad. He is also expected to be part of the Irish team in the World Championships.
Martin’s got the confidence and the characteristics to be world champion, as his Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory earlier this year proved.
Now he needs to build the condition to fight for gold, and will do so over the next three weeks.
That’s the primary target, but one or more stage wins plus a high overall finish are also possible in the Spanish tour.
Dan Martin will bring behind the scenes details of his race in his daily Vuelta a Espana diary, starting Monday.