Dan Martin is an Irish pro-cyclist riding with the Garmin-Sharp team, and he’s on the up. He’s a big-race winner and well respected as a clean cyclist, and he might just be on the verge of a big season in 2014. He’s also the nephew of 1987 Tour de France winner Stephen Roche (it’s a legal requirement that any article written about Dan Martin mentions that). But best of all, Dan Martin appears to be normal and well balanced, and has the world completely in perspective.
He’s also a bit of a throwback. As he explained recently in an interview with Rouleur magazine, he rides according to ‘feel’. The modern way to race – as epitomised by Team Sky – is to utilise all the numbers at your disposal (gathered from sophisticated on-bike computers and training data) to understand the level of effort you can maintain, where your limits are, and how close to them you are. Martin prefers to judge his effort based on how he feels, as opposed to how his power meter say’s he feels, and when he attacks it’s based on instinct – to some he represents the good old fashioned bike racer; not always perfect, but the more formulaic and (some say) machine-like modern approach is not his style.
To further understand what makes him tick, take his views on doping, as explained in an interview with Paul Kimmage this year in the Irish Independent. Rather than getting into soul searching explanations of the pressures faced by cyclists to enhance their performance and get results, for Martin it’s a very simple equation: “I think it’s a moral-fibre thing…the cultural aspect is very much overlooked. I don’t dope for the same reason that I don’t walk out of a shop with stuff without paying. I’ve never stolen anything in my life. I’ve never cheated in an exam. Why would I take drugs?”
What a normal, and human, response. Dan Martin doesn’t appear to have been swallowed up by the same win-at-all-costs mania that afflicts many sportspeople. Of course, he must have a massive appetite for competition – you can’t win Liege-Bastogne-Liege, as he did in 2013, without really wanting it – but he talks about other, more noble motivations: “I don’t need to win races, I enjoy it, but what’s most important to me is to push myself to the limit and just do my best and if that’s first or 100th or not finishing, well, that’s how it is.”
And yet, despite the fact that he doesn’t display some of the less well-balanced characteristics of the successful modern sportsperson – the ones that supposedly mark them out as winners – he is now very much a big-hitter in pro cycling. Apart from winning in Liege in 2013 – one of the big one-day classics of the year – Martin also took a stage at the Tour de France and was overall winner at the Volta a Catalunya. If he hadn’t crashed heavily at the Vuelta Espana, and abandoned the race ‘with birds flying round my head’ (as he put it), he may have added to his Palmares there too. Speculation is well under way as to what he might go on to achieve next year and beyond.
While it would a big call to suggest he could turn himself into a GC contender at a Grand Tour (though who knows, for a long time Wiggins looked anything but that), he will certainly be a marked man at the big one day races, and you’d fancy him to add to his tally of Grand Tour stage wins. But whatever big wins come his way next year, don’t expect any unnecessary drama. After raising his arms to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2013 he passed much of the credit over to his team-mates, explaining how they sheltered and protected him all day, and then set him up for what he described as “one of the easiest races I’ve ever won”.
That may be so Dan, and I’ve never personally attempted to out-sprint Joachim Rodriguez after 250km of tough racing Belgian style…but I think your definition of easy might be a little different to mine.
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