Dan Martin’s Vuelta Diary: falling into a ravine is not good for the nerves

Had I not crashed, I dare say I might have been able to try for the win

A steep climb on Sunday’s 15th stage of the Vuelta a España between Oviedo and Lagos de Covadonga. Photograph: EPA/Javier Lizon.

A steep climb on Sunday’s 15th stage of the Vuelta a España between Oviedo and Lagos de Covadonga. Photograph: EPA/Javier Lizon.

 

Saturday, stage 14

: 15th on stage, up one place to 10th overall Finally our team got a stage win in this year’s race, with Ryder Hesjedal winning out of a big breakaway which went clear early on. It was a really big day for Garmin-Sharp – we had been trying hard since the sta

rt of the race, and things finally paid off.

Ryder puts so much effort into helping everybody else that it was great to see him first to the line. He did it on a pretty special day too – that steep bit on the final climb really was really something. I had to have 36x32 gearing to get up the climb. That might not mean anything to people at home, but it is almost like mountain bike gears. The climb was touching 25, 30 per cent in places, and apparently was the steepest climb the Vuelta ever used.

It was pretty epic. Between two kilometres and one kilometre to go it took forever. It was 20 per cent average along there, and we were just grinding away, each trying to get up as best as we could.

I felt quite good, I could feel the legs coming around. The whole day I felt strong. It was a bit of a change from the day before, because I had a bit of a rough day on Friday. I got through it, then suddenly the legs clicked and the gears felt light. Well, relatively so – not sure how light they can feel on a 20 per cent climb!

I ended up 15th. That might not sound like much, but there were nine riders who remained clear from the break, and so I was one of the quickest of the overall contenders.

Sunday stage 15

: seventh on stage, up three places to seventh overall Improving three places in the general classification is something to be happy about, but that only tells half the story. At one point I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue in the race; in fact, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be okay at all. We were on the first of the day’s two big climbs, and some guy clipped my front wheel.

That knocked me flying, and I went over a guard rail and down a ravine. I fell about five metres into a thorn bush. I actually didn’t really know when I was going to stop falling, so I’m glad the bush was there. I was delayed quite a while – I had nothing to hold onto trying to climb back up, so it was pretty stressful.

I also bashed my shin really hard on the guard rail, so the doctor is going to stitch me up. I think I need five or six stitches in my shin, and my fingers are also messed up.

I was totally out of it

But I just got back into the rhythm of it and then somehow we got back. It was an incredible ride to get back – we were one minute 40 seconds behind at one point.

Obviously the whole team put in a huge effort, and then me and Ryder did that last downhill literally flat out. Guys were crashing everywhere, but we were slipping and sliding the whole way down as fast as we could.

We ended up making it back at the bottom of the downhill. It was an incredible ride, and that set me up for the climb.

Amazing

It’s a pity the crash happened; I finished seventh on the stage but if I didn’t have to make that effort, I dare say I might have been able to try for the win. But we live to fight another day. Hopefully the leg won’t bother me too much on Monday. I think it should be okay – just get it stitched up and it should be fine.

We have another big finishing climb now. I know the final 50km because we did it in 2011. That is definitely an advantage to know what is coming. It is a long one, but it is really steady at the start. It is only really in the last five kilometres that it gets really difficult.

My goal is to stay out of trouble, get to that final climb with the front group and just go up it as fast as I can and see where I end up at the top. Considering the crash and the tumble into the ravine, if I am still in seventh overall going into Tuesday’s rest day I’ll be very satisfied with that.

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