Dan martin: "I have fallen almost as much as I finished on the podium"

April 20 th 2019 - 14:30

Here is an Ardennais! 32-year-old Dan Martin is about to take part in his 11th Flèche Wallonne and 12th Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which he won in 2013. A many-time podium finisher on the two Belgian classics, the Irishman has experienced more frustrations and setbacks than joys, but has a special relationship with them. Interviewed during the Tour of the Basque Country, where he finished second in the general classification behind Ion Izaguirre, after being barely edged out by Adam Yates on the queen stage, he will meet up with his regular rivals Alejandro Valverde and Julian Alaphilippe… as well as Peter Sagan.

The weeks leading up to the Belgian classics can be important… how has your preparation gone this year?

It is all about training. I hope this year the Tour of the Basque Country has given me the explosiveness to battle in the classics. I also have experience on my side, I know how to manage these races and I hope to reach my objective this year. Up to now I have been quite consistent, not necessarily at the very top but always with the leaders: 5th on the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, 7th on the UAE Tour and 2nd in the Basque Country. I haven’t won yet, but I have battled with the best. These are not amazing results, but it’s been a decent year and now I am aiming for a win in a big race… a classic.

What makes the Flèche Wallonne so special compared to Liège-Bastogne-Liège?

I immediately loved it when I rode on the Flèche Wallonne for the first time in 2008. The ambience is very special. It is so nervous; everyone battles to keep their position and the tension rises just until the final climb of the Mur de Huy. It is very strategic. It is great and tough. I have fallen almost as much as I have finished on the podium, but it’s a race I would really like to win. Liège is completely different. It is the history of cycling and it is an incredible feeling to ride on these roads for nearly seven hours. You have to stay focused for the entire race, and try to choose the right moment to attack at the end of the race.

Alejandro Valverde has become the most formidable rider of his generation on these two races... is he still the man to beat?

Alejandro, is Alejandro… and he loves these races as much as I do. He no longer has the pressure to win, after winning as much as he has, but he will have a great time riding with his World Champion’s jersey. He is still the favourite and he will have to be watched, but you cannot base your race on just one rider. There are a lot of favourites, the level is very high this year and for sure it will be wide open.

"I can’t choose between the two, but I really want to add the Flèche to my CV"

Of course everyone thinks about Julian Alaphilippe...

I was a team mate of Julian and I hope he will be back on form after his fall in the Tour of the Basque Country. We will get a good idea about his form on the Flèche. It was a shame that he had to retire, but in any case, he likes these races that are ideally suited for him. Maybe more than me, as I am becoming more of a Grand Tour rider.

Do you have a preference between these two races that close out the classic’s season?

I can’t choose between the two, but I really want to add the Flèche to my CV. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a monument and it would also be great to win it a second time. I got quite close, once finishing second and another time I fell in the last corner! In any case, I always head to the Ardennes with a lot of motivation. It is a big week of racing. I’m really looking to it.

What do you think about the new course? This change could make La Doyenne accessible to Peter Sagan, who has decided to give it a go.

It will be a different race. More open than usual. It will be aggressive. It will take a very strong team and luckily, I have one. The last few years, everyone has waited for the final climb. But the course is different this year, so the attacks will come earlier. I am very curious about it. I will go to recce and then think about a strategy. We will see about Sagan, but for sure the final stretch suits him better. Before that he will also have to be fast on the climbs.

© A.S.O.

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