Dan Martin: Heat was really on during Tour de France first stage
Main plan was to stay cool before the time trial, which meant ice on neck and wrists
Spectators try to cool off with cold water on the side of the street during first stage of the 2015 Tour de France in Utrecht, Netherlands. Photograph: Marcel van Hoorn/EPA
Saturday, stage one, 13.4km individual time trial in Utrecht:
What is my third Tour de France got underway on Saturday with an individual time trial around the streets of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Apart from the huge crowds, the big feature of the day was the heat: it was sweltering.
In fact, it was so hot that I had to cut my warm-up short. It was 35/36 degrees and my legs were starting to get heavier and heavier. After I stopped the warm-up, I just took it easy for 15/20 minutes before the start and tried to regulate the core temperature.
It has been shown there is a performance advantage to staying cool. We have special ice jackets we wear, and the team also filled some tights with ice and put them around my wrists and around my neck. The whole idea is to cool the blood and, with that, to bring the core temperature back down before the time trial.
That has a big effect on performance and it was a battle to keep that right.
Even with that done, at the end of the 15-minute time trial we were all completely knackered by the finish line.
We noticed on the course there was a headwind on the way back, so I deliberately took it quite easy on the way out. I tried to stay relaxed in the first 5km and just concentrate on my aero position. On the way back I used the energy I saved to really put the power down.
That seemed to work well as I averaged the same speed on the way back as I did on the way out.
Those who went off earlier had an advantage as the wind picked up towards the end. I ended up 95th in the time trial. It was hard to be happy with that, but while I know I could have done better in some of the corners, there was nothing much to gain by taking chances.
Losing an extra 10 seconds is better than crashing. Getting through safe and sound was the most important thing, and so overall it wasn’t a bad day.
There was a lot of talk afterwards that the winner, Rohan Dennis, had set the fastest average speed ever. The race organisers said beforehand the time trial was 13.8km, but it ended up being 400m less than that.
This means the real average pace was less than the 55.446 quoted afterwards. Rohan is a friend, but the real course distance means the speed was a bit more realistic than was first said. He missed out on the record, but he took a great win.
Sunday, stage two, 166km from Utrecht to Zeeland
The first road stage of the Tour ended up being a tough one; it was completely flat but, due to some really exposed roads along the coast plus strong winds and rain, it was probably the most intense first day of racing I have ever had.
Even when the breakaway went at the start, we never went below 45km per hour. We were just going flat out all day and fighting for position.
Then the split happened. We were in a really good position before it happened, sitting in a group of 40 riders. We went through a town and there was a central division in the road with all the roundabouts.
Myself and my team-mate Andrew Talansky were near Vincenzo Nibali, last year’s race winner. Then we hit this patch of diesel. I didn’t go down but Nibali and Andrew and the Frenchman Romain Bardet all hit the deck.
I got stuck behind a bike and ended up delayed with Nibali.
It was pretty frustrating; the problem only happened on one side of the road. Basically if you were on the left-hand side of the division you didn’t make the front group and lost time. If you were on the right-hand side you made the front group. It was that simple.
There weren’t that many general classification riders in the front group, so it wasn’t a total mess of a day but it could have been a lot better.
Next up is the third stage, which finishes at the top of the Mur de Huy climb. That’s usually the finish of the Flèche-Wallonne race and the climb really suits me. I’ve finished second, fourth and sixth in that race before and so I hope to be fighting for the win on Monday.
The tactics are quite simple; get to the bottom of the climb near the front and then, with just over a kilometre to go, it is just a race to the top from there.
There is no science behind the climb. It is a case of judgment of pace and hopefully I have enough experience of it from the past to be able to do things perfectly right.
I won my first Tour de France stage in 2013 and, two years later, I’d love to do so again.