Dan Martin: Back where it all began but looking foward

Despite disappointment from bout of illness there was much learned from this102nd Tour

Yellow jersey winner Chris Froome of Team Sky near the Arc de Triomphe during the 109.5-km final stage of the 102nd Tour de France. Photograph: Reuters

Yellow jersey winner Chris Froome of Team Sky near the Arc de Triomphe during the 109.5-km final stage of the 102nd Tour de France. Photograph: Reuters

 

Back to Alpe d’Huez, where it really all began. We raced up that climb on Saturday’s penultimate stage of the Tour and it was like completing a circle. Back when I first started cycling, my dad had planned to bring us to the Alps. He told me then that I had to start riding my bike before we went in order for me to be able to take it and to do the climbs there.

I was 13 at the time and I didn’t really want to ride in the UK where we were living at the time. I was just motivated to ride big climbs abroad. But what he said was the encouragement I needed and I started doing training a few weeks before heading to the Alps.

Penultimate stage

Saturday’s stage was a great one and it was nice to feel my climbing legs coming back. It was a really intense short stage. It went flat out over the Croix de Fer, the first climb. We were lucky to have team-mate Ramunas Navardauskas in the breakaway and then Ryder Hesjedal later got third.

My job was to look after my team-mate Andrew Talansky as he was 11th in the general classification. I had better legs than him and I think I could have tried something for the stage. It probably would have been hard to win it as I’m still getting over my bronchitis, but it was great to feel my form starting to come back.

Despite those sensations, I just stayed with him, did what the team wanted me to do.

Many Irish fans travelled over to the race and were at Irish Corner, the 10th hairpin bend from the summit. It’s a great experience to ride past them and get their encouragement and support.

The climb is known for the huge crowds which line the roadside and in other places it can be pretty intimidating, particularly on Dutch corner, the seventh bend. There you just feel threatened as the mood is different and there is a real smell of alcohol off people’s breath. It’s different at Irish corner – that’s pretty tranquil and very pleasant.

Overall, climbing Alpe d’Huez with thousands and thousands of people and the atmosphere that generates is just something to savour.

The final stage of the race took place in Paris and under wet conditions. The women’s La Course race was held on the same circuit a couple of hours before us and we were pretty anxious watching that, seeing them slide around and quite a few falling off.

Luckily for us nobody wanted to risk anything and it wasn’t too dangerous. However that kind of dampened the feeling a lot. Nobody could really enjoy it . . . it was a strange enjoyment. We just wanted to stay safe and get it over and done with.

Aside from the greasy conditions, the actual road surface on the Champs Elysees is also pretty testing. That road is a hell of a lot tougher than it looks. At times there are so many holes and bumps and rough cobblestones that you are really being bounced around.

Fantastic

Nicolas RocheChris Froome

Personally I’m a little disappointed with how the second half of the Tour played out. I was second, second and fourth on stages, but falling sick meant that I wasn’t able to make the most of the opportunities in the final 10 stages.

I have definitely learned a lot of lessons from this race, so I can be encouraged by that. That is what it is about. You have to take something away.

While it was hard physically, I actually feel a lot fresher than I have ever done. That shows that I am moving in the right direction and I am looking forward to the next races now. I’ll do the Clasica San Sebastian next weekend, then I should normally be riding the Vuelta a España.

With those and other races, there are plenty more opportunities this year to get a victory.

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