Martin emulates Seán Kelly to claim Liège-Bastogne-Liège Classic

Irish cyclist also adds renowned Classic to Volta a Catalunya

Ireland’s Daniel Martin crosses the finish line to claim the 99th Liège-Bastgogne-Liège Classic. Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images.

Ireland’s Daniel Martin crosses the finish line to claim the 99th Liège-Bastgogne-Liège Classic. Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images.


Twenty one years after Seán Kelly last took a Classic win for Ireland with the 1992 Milan-Sanremo, Dan Martin achieved the same feat yesterday with victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The 26 year old was strongest in the finale of the 261km Classic, regarded by some as the hardest one-day race of the year, and left some of the world’s top riders in his wake with a brilliant performance.

He attacked on the climb up towards the finish in Ans, bridging across to 2012 world number one Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), then crushed the Catalan rider’s morale with a powerful jump just before the final corner.

Rodriguez had no answer and Martin soloed home three seconds clear.

Three-man chase
Double Liège winner Alejandro Valverde led in a three- man chase group nine seconds back; like Rodriguez, he was unable to match the Irish winner.

“I couldn't believe how easy it was on the climb of Saint-Nicolas,” Martin said after. “I was totally in control and followed any attack that went.”

However, despite that, he said that he was stunned by the emotions he experienced at the finish.

“I was shocked. Complete shock. I couldn’t believe it. I race on instinct. I don't think about what’s happening during the race,” he stated. "I just try and win. Actually finding myself in front of the finish line of Liège-Bastogne-Liège with my arms in the air, it's incredible.”

Martin's success follows on from two earlier wins in the same race by Kelly, in 1984 and 1989.

Martin had already followed in his wheeltracks this year when he won the arduous Volta a Catalunya stage race, and said that doing the double was on his mind.

“Somebody texted me that the first year that Seán Kelly won Catalunya, he won Liège weeks later. That was back in 1984. That was a bit of an omen and I’ve been thinking about it all week.”

As the race entered the final half hour, Martin was part of the group which formed behind the lone leader, his team-mate Ryder Hesjedal.

The Canadian attacked on the climb of the Côte de Colonster with just under 20km left, and carried a decent lead over the top of the next climb, the Côte de Saint-Nicolas.

Hard chasing behind brought the group closer to him and after Hesjedal was caught, he switched to riding for Martin.

He drove the small leading group on, helping maintain a gap over a chase bunch, which contained world champion Philippe Gilbert.

When Rodriguez surged with 1.2 kilometres to go, the Irishman bided his time, allowed the gap to open, and then jumped across.

Martin had beaten Rodriguez in last month’s Volta a Catalunya, and although the Catalan has been regarded as one of the best riders in the sport for several years, he said that as soon as Martin bridged he knew his chances were fading.

“When I realised it was Martin, and how easy he managed to catch me, I understood he would have defeated me,” he admitted.