Irishman Dan Martin says that he has got over his crash at the Liège–Bastogne–Liège just over a week ago and has dusted himself down and ready to fight for Pink when the Grande Partenza Team Time Trial rolls off the Titanic slipway on Friday.
The 27-year-old Birmingham-born star of a very handy-looking Garmin-Sharp outfit was defending the title he won in 2013 in one of the monument one-day Classics when his wheels skidded from under him at the very last corner with 300 meters to go, robbing him of what looked certain victory.
But Martin is philosophical and although a little bit battered and bruised he said he has moved on.
“I’ve moved on, end of story,” he said. “Obviously, maybe deep down, there maybe a little scar, but it is hard to know what would have happened anyway. The biggest scar is riding in the train around some of those corners for TTT on Friday and thinking ‘whey, is the front wheel going to go?’,
“The biggest thing is that I’m surrounded by a brilliant group of team-mates that I count as friends, my best friends. They were so supportive after the race. We are such a close group, we were, well I was, emotional afterwards. Obviously when you are racing for seven hours and then fall off with 300 meters to go, the guys were there for me. I said before the race, win or lose we stick together.
“I love that race, and I seem to be quite good at it, and shows I’m coming into good form as we had planned. I had a few issues at the start of the year, so it has worked in my favour to keep things back until this moment. I feel pretty good now,” said Martin who after a big year was sixth in the 2013 UCI World rankings, and believes that the Giro is gong to be something really special for Northern Ireland and Ireland as a whole.
“It’s not that long ago we had the Tour de France in 1998, and with the economy the way has been, I never realised that it could happen so quickly again. They have made an incredible effort to bring the race here. It’s is really fantastic to see how everyone here is embracing the race,” said Martin, who doesn’t usually allow his emotions to show.
“I’m not really the most excitable of people, but this is something special for me. I know I don’t spend a lot of time here, but even getting off the plane in Belfast yesterday was strange coming to a bike race, a Grand Tour in Northern Ireland. There’s no other word for it for me, other than special. I know it is going to be an incredible weekend, and I also know that I will remember this weekend for the rest of my life.
“I can imagine the welcome we are going to get when we walk out on stage on Thursday night at the City Hall. The only thing I would have liked is that the first stage was a prologue (individual time trial). It would have been incredible to ride around the course on my own.
“But I know the whole country is going to give us so much support throughout the whole three weeks of the tour, and hopefully we will be well up in the race,” said Martin, who, of course, is cousin of Nicholas Roche who rides for the Tinkoff-Saxo team. Dan’s father Neil, a former pro cyclist himself, is married to Stephen Roche’s sister Maria. But, says Martin, there is no real competitiveness between them, just respect.
“We are just so supportive of each other, and have been all our lives. If he wins, I would be so happy for him, and we definitely bounce off each other. We definitely inspire each other to do better.”