Dan Martin’s Vuelta diary: Punch-ups, motor rumours and midnight dinners

Heat of the moment fight an unwelcome distraction from an amazing stage race

Canadian rider Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin Sharp team celebrates winning the 14th stage of the Vuelta over 200.8km from Santander to La Camperona, northern Spain, but had to endure accusations of riding a motorised bicycle. Photograph: Javier Lizon/EPA

Canadian rider Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin Sharp team celebrates winning the 14th stage of the Vuelta over 200.8km from Santander to La Camperona, northern Spain, but had to endure accusations of riding a motorised bicycle. Photograph: Javier Lizon/EPA

 

It was the second rest day of the race yesterday and we had a chance to unwind, to let our bodies recover a bit and get ready for the remaining days before the race ends on Sunday.

We were glad of the chance to lie in because we didn’t get here until really late on Monday night, about 11.15pm. We had a big day on the bike, with more than five-and-a-half hours including the 10km neutralised section at the start and the 20km riding from the finish back down to the team bus, and also more than 4,500m of climbing. After all that we had a four-hour bus drive to our hotel, so we were very glad to finally arrive.

We were able to eat some food on the bus but we also had to have our dinner when we finally got to the hotel, so that we didn’t get to sit down until 11.30pm. That’s obviously not the best thing for recovery.

It has been a pretty serious Vuelta in that regard. There have been a hell of a lot of transfers. In the last few nights we have arrived very late due to the delays in getting off the mountain-top finishes.

Generally dinner is at 10pm or 10.30pm most nights. The Vuelta is very different to other races; at the Tour you get dinner at 8.30pm or 9pm, and you are in bed by 11pm. Here at the Vuelta you are in bed at midnight, 12.30am, sometimes 1am. By the time you have digested your food and you are ready to lie down, it is pretty late.

Then again, the start isn’t until

1.00pm or 1.30pm most days, so you get to lie in until 10pm. You can make up for it that way.

One of the big talking points about Monday’s stage was the disqualification of two riders for fighting. Ivan Rovny of the Tinkoff Saxo team and Gianluca Brambilla of Omega Pharma-QuickStep were both sent home before the end of the stage for a punch-up between them.

It was obviously something in the heat of the moment. I have never really seen it like that before. You sometimes see guys getting a bit pushy and whatever, but it is hard to know what caused it to get out of control like that.

I think it is pretty poor for the image of cycling, and therefore it was correct that they both got thrown out of the Vuelta. Instead of the headlines being about the amazing race that went on at the front on Monday, they were about the fight. It has put cycling into the limelight in a bad way again.

Things can get a bit hairy at times in the bunch, of course. The sprints are the worst; obviously the stakes are really high there. Guys get a bit heated in trying to get into position and once the jostling starts, they become even more hyped up. It is a high-risk element of the sport, that jostling for position, and adrenaline is through the roof.

Obviously guys cope with it differently, that aggression. Personally I go into a real Zen-like mode and nothing really seems to bother me, whereas other guys get really agitated and can become pretty aggressive when they get close to that situation.

But generally when they cross the finish line it is finished. The respect between each other comes back. I think for a lot of the sprinters, it is just what they do; that jostling for position, that bouncing off each other. It is part of sprinting. They are not trying to make each other crash, it is maybe just some form of intimidation technique.

When you are blasting along at 60km/h behind them, you just have to trust them that things don’t go wrong. If they fall and you are moving that quickly, you are not going to be able to avoid it in time. So we just have to trust that they can jostle for position without falling off and most times it is okay.

The other topic of conversation in recent days has been the claims about possible motors in bikes. My team-mate Ryder Hesjedal was accused of that by some media because when he crashed earlier in the race, his bike spun around on the ground in what the media said it was a strange way.

The movement was actually caused by the downhill slope plus the spinning tyre touching the ground, causing the bike to pivot the way it did. We were just laughing about it – the claim was pathetic. That was the initial reaction.

The motors they talk about – they would make the pedals go round, yet the pedals were completely still. Where was the engine supposed to be? In the hub, which is one centimetre in diameter? Ryder actually took it as a compliment; the idea that he might have used an engine because he was so strong.

The UCI

carries out checks anyway. At the finish on Monday they weighed my bike to make sure it was under the limit and they also checked for an engine. They took the seatpost out and looked inside with a telescopic camera device. I was like, “guys, are you serious?” The bike weighs almost nothing. If there was an engine in there, it would be heavy!

I guess it is good that they are checking, of course, but it is a bit sci-fi.

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