Dan Martin Diary - Day 5: Legs are feeling stronger on some familiar roads

I’m feeling looser although my team-mates have picked up some knocks on the way

Team-mate  Christian Vande Velde crashed with 15km to go on the stage and was pretty banged up. Photograph:  Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Team-mate Christian Vande Velde crashed with 15km to go on the stage and was pretty banged up. Photograph: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

 

Well, that was encouraging. Despite it being one day after the efforts of the team time trial, I felt really good. My legs seem to be coming around, and it was probably the best I have felt all race.

I think it took me the few days in Corsica to get back into racing. After the Tour of Switzerland I took it easy and my legs became blocked, not used to the efforts again. Now my legs have come around and the muscles are feeling good again. I felt great all day during the stage, and also was strong psychologically as well – my head was really switched on. I could sit in the group and felt fine.

While overall it was a great day for me, for my Garmin-Sharp team it wasn’t very good. We didn’t lose time but Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson hit the ground towards the end. Christian crashed on the climb with about 15 kilometres to go, and while we don’t think he has any fractures, he’s pretty banged up. Tom got brought down in the finishing straight.

Both of them were pretty stupid crashes, I don’t really understand why they happened, but riders went down and took them with them. It is disappointing, as they are both important guys for our overall ambitions in the mountains.

To compound things, we also found out that Ryder Hesjedal has a broken rib from his crash on the first stage. He has been suffering a bit from breathing problems and wasn’t able to pull on the handlebars the way he would like to. We got it checked yesterday, and it turns out he has a fractured rib.


Hazards
Anyway, while it was a tough stage for some of the team, it went well for me. It is one more day ticked off the list of hazards in this race.

That said, though, the race has been safer thus far than last year’s Tour. That feels like it was a very different race; we may have done just five stages thus far, but it feels like stage twelve or thirteen already, in terms of how the bunch is.

While I am feeling better each day, I think there are a lot of riders who are already tired. That makes things a bit less frantic, with the fatigue in the peloton helping to make things more settled, less nervous.

As to why that is, I think it’s because the start of the race has been more difficult than usual, and also as it’s been hotter. Both of things factors have had the effect of calming everyone down, which is good. But what is encouraging is that while others are getting tired, I’m feeling better; that’s a good sign.

It was a special stage for me as I knew a lot of the roads from my training days in Marseilles, when I was part of the VC La Pomme team there. I raced with them as an amateur and I managed to catch up with my old director sportif at the finish line. Before then, the DID Cycle4Life guys were at the start with my mum and dad to wish me luck. It was fantastic to talk with them, particularly as I didn’t get a chance to speak to them before the team time trial on Tuesday.


Charity ride
The DID Cycle4life is the charity that I have become a patron for in Ireland. On May 4th we had a big charity ride and we raised something like €210,000 for Temple Street Children’s Hospital. That was great to be able to do, and now I’m selling a T-shirt to raise more money for the charity. It is something that I look forward to being involved with in the future.

Anyway, it was great that the guys came to support me here. They have come out to other races – this year, they were at the Volta a Catalunya and Flèche Wallonne, and I rode well both times. So hopefully the fact that they have been to this one is a good sign!

There is an interesting anecdote about the hotel we are staying in after the stage. It is the same place we slept in earlier this year during the Tour of the Mediterranean, then discovered the next morning that all our bikes had been stolen by thieves. It is always a risk with teams – the mechanics’ trucks are pretty secure, and you can park the cars in front of the doors to stop people getting in, but it is still a danger.

Maybe the mechanics can sleep in the truck to stop it happening again! Anyway, hopefully lighting won’t strike twice in the same place.

Next up is stage six, a 176.5 kilometre race from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier. It’s the flattest stage of the Tour but I think it is going to be a hard one nonetheless, with a lot of wind and nervousness in the peloton. Personally, it could be chaos.

Each year when it is windy some teams try to break things up by causing echelons, diagonal lines of riders which form when teams attack in sidewinds. Once that happens, gaps can open.

It is very much a day that my team-mates are going to have to look after me and to try to keep me in the front. We need to avoid any loss of time. It will be a very stressful day but I think I am more than ready for it.

Once we get through it, the roads start getting harder again and it is more my terrain.