Martin in optimistic mood before first of Ardennes Classics

Irish rider in ‘good condition’ and looking forward to Sunday’s Amstel Gold

Dan Martin (centre): “I feel ready to head into some of my favourite races.” Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty

Dan Martin (centre): “I feel ready to head into some of my favourite races.” Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty

 

Winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2014 and three times a podium finisher in Flèche Wallonne, Dan Martin believes he is in a good position as he heads towards Sunday’s Amstel Gold.

The event is the first of three Ardennes Classics, and Martin has worked hard to be ready for his favourite events.

“Training has gone well since Volta a Catalunya despite the heavy crash on the last stage,” said Martin, now racing with UAE Team Emirates. “I’ve been in good condition all season but bad luck prevented me from showing it in results. I feel ready to head into some of my favourite races.

“The course of the Flèche Wallone looks a lot more difficult than previous years and will make the final even more testing.”

The climbing specialist finished second in 2014 and 2017, and was also third in 2016. He has never been ideally positioned on the final climb of the Mur de Huy, and will hope that things will be different this time around.

Out of the three events, the Amstel Gold Race is the one that has suited him least in the past. However the course has been tweaked this year and he will hope to do something big in Sunday’s race.

Also motivated for the event is Eddie Dunbar, who is competing with the Irish Aqua Blue Sport team.

Dunbar won the U-23 Tour of Flanders last year and is a rider with strong ability. He suffered a bad concussion due to a crash in last year’s U-23 ‘Baby’ Giro, and had a disrupted racing programme as a result.

Fine fifth

However he believes he is fully over the crash now, and has been riding strongly of late. He was a solid 21st overall in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali last month, taking sixth in the best young rider category, and then went on to place a fine fifth in the Volta Limburg Classic.

He described that race as a ‘massive confidence boost’ and believes he is in good form heading into the Ardennes Classics. Placing 56th in Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl doesn’t reflect his fitness nor motivation, and he will hope to perform well in Sunday’s event. Dunbar is thought likely to also ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday week.

Meanwhile Irish riders had a solid showing in the Commonwealth Games time trials, with Marcus Christie netting a fine seventh in the men’s event and Eileen Burns finishing 11th in the women’s race. In the track events, Lydia Boylan recorded the top result of the Irish team when she was eighth in the women’s scratch race. Robyn Stewart also landed a top ten finish when she was ninth in the women’s sprint.

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