What's Cool In Road Cycling

Garmin-Barracuda’s Dan Martin Gets PEZ’d!

Dan Martin has an attacking style of racing that has won him many fans over the last few years. He looks strong and confident, but is he so sure of himself as we think? That’s one of the questions PEZ put to the young Irishman recently at the Garmin-Barracuda training camp – that, and his allergy problems, his cycling pedigree and his future plans in the sport of cycling…an in-depth chat with Dan Martin.

PEZ: You are from a big cycling family; did that make it easy for you to get into the sport of cycling?

Dan Martin: I think growing up in a house where there are all the cycling magazines, and it’s on television, and going to races…because my dad was still racing as a professional in England when I was a kid, I think I went to a bike race nearly every weekend of my life. He stopped racing at the time I started. It’s a sort of natural progression as far as me becoming a cyclist.

Cycling for me is about having fun, going for coffee rides and relaxing. It wasn’t the competition side, more the enjoyment of being out on the bike and enjoying the countryside, just the freedom of cycling. That’s what cycling is to me, it’s not particularly the competition side. That side is almost an avenue to exercise my competitive nature. I want to be the best, maybe not the best, but pushing my limits,

I was the same at school and cycling enables me do that and obviously my family background helps me to make that choice. Also, I was always surrounded by the nutritional side of it and the training side of it and the dedication is something I’ve grown up with. It’s just a way of life – I wouldn’t know how to do it differently.

PEZ: You love cycling, but would you miss racing if, for some reason, you couldn’t race?

Dan: Yea, that’s what makes this team so special, because I really enjoy going to races; it’s like going away with friends. I would really miss racing, if I had to choose between racing and just riding a bike…well I would always ride a bike, but the racing side I would miss. I think you can see in the way I race that I make mistakes sometimes. I’ve always taken risks in my racing as far as tactics go, sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s that natural instinct to racing that I express.

Martin post-stage at last summer’s Vuelta.

PEZ: Do you feel any pressure from being Stephen Roche’s nephew?

Dan: No, I’m lucky, I’ve got Nicholas there to take all that! For me, I think I’ve become my own rider, my results say I’m my own rider, and I have my own career. People talk about me no longer being the nephew of Stephen Roche, but having my own palmarйs. The results are building up slowly, but they are there. It is something I’ve grown up with; also my dad was well know in British cycling and as soon as I started racing everyone expected me to be good. It’s something that has always been there, but I always try my best to empty my fuel tank at every race, and then I’m happy. If I’m happy with my results that’s what I want, it’s all about making myself happy and being proud of what I have done.

Dan Martin loves to attack.

PEZ: When did you become such a confident young man?

Dan: I don’t think it’s happened yet, to be honest! When I’m away from the bike I’m not the most confident of people, but when I pin a number on my back, something changes in my head and I become very self assured and I know what I want tactically. I knew from when I started riding a bike that it’s not necessarily how good I’m going to be – it’s a never ending roller coaster and let’s see how far it goes. Every year I want to keep moving, and even now I feel stronger than I ever have before at this time of year. So who knows where that progression is going to stop and how far my value will go as far as race results go.

I’m still developing as a person and as a rider. I’m getting stronger and more tactically aware and more confident every year. We still don’t really know what will be my forte; will I be good in the Grand Tours or not? At the moment, I seem to be competitive in most races, which is a good position to be in. At the moment, as long as I’m happy with my racing, that’s OK.

I don’t really think about what I’ve already done, I start every year with a clean slate, if you are always looking at what you have done in the past you might rest on your laurels, maybe become a little complacent as far as what you are going to do in the future. Also looking too far into the future isn’t good; I go to every race and try to be involved in that race.

Dan Martin celebrates Grand Tour stage glory at last year’s Vuelta.

PEZ: Do you enjoy using the internet, Facebook, Twitter etc?

Dan: Ah! Not so much, if someone phones me, I answer the phone. I like writing. I write an article for Pro Cycling and it’s actually me who writes the article. It’s something that comes easy to me and it’s a way of expressing myself, and I think it’s important for people to see what I’m like as a character. I hope it helps people understand. I hope it gives them an insight. It also backs up the team’s stance on being 100% clean, because they can know that I’m all about wanting to do my best. The more I can let people into my life, they can hopefully understand that it’s possible to be as competitive as we are as a team while racing clean. I think a lot of people don’t have that belief, and the more I can be open, the more I can help. It’s one of the reasons I came here (Garmin), and it’s something I want to continue. Yea, it’s tricky at races when you have to do a lot of interviews, but it’s something I enjoy.

Second behind only Zaugg at Lombardia.

PEZ: Are you happy at Garmin-Barracuda, and would you consider moving to another team?

Dan: My contract is up at the end of this year, but at the moment I’m really happy here. It’s a really long season as well, so we will see what happens this year. I don’t know what it is like in another team. A lot of guys make the mistake of thinking the grass is always greener on the other side, from the outside they’ve got better this or that, but here I’m happy in myself and I get a lot of respect from the team. It’s somewhere that I’m comfortable, so at the moment I don’t see any reason to change it. That might change, but for now I’m pretty happy. The team has a new sponsor in Barracuda, and that shows things are progressing all the time, and it’s a really nice environment to be in. They support my stance on cycling as well, and my whole outlook on life is very similar to the team. That hasn’t changed since I joined.

Martin has always been successful in Italy.

PEZ: You said you feel strong for this time of year, do you think you will have a good season then?

Dan: I’ve had a very good winter. I felt relaxed, I’ve stayed healthy again, never sick, not had any injuries, so, touch wood, everything has gone to plan so far. I think the Vuelta did me a lot of good last year. It was such a hard race, and I came through it quite strongly. I think that has given me a good base for this year, so hopefully I have improved a little over the winter. As far as the racing goes, every year is different, and I think every team trains so hard in the winter now, and the first races are so difficult now, so it will be interesting.

For me this year, the important thing is to figure out the allergy situation. I’ve got another new set of inhalers for this year, which has cost me a hell of a lot of money, but hopefully that will work, and I’ll be competitive in March and April. I was lucky last year in Cataluсa, as the pollen levels dropped for a week. Normally, I can’t show my true level and potential in March. The week after that in Pays Basque I was terrible. So I want to sort that out this year and not have a season of two levels.

In yellow at the Tour of Poland.

PEZ: What are you allergic to?

Dan: Just about everything on the planet! But it’s pollen that causes my breathing problems and it all depends on which pollens are high on the day of the race. I’ve got these new inhalers so I hope to have a good April and May. The allergy knocks 30 to 40 beats off my heart rate, which gives a lot of watts away not being able to breathe.

PEZ: Do you know which Grand Tour you might ride this year?

Dan: Like every year, there is a big selection long list for the Tour, but I think the Giro is always going to be a problem for me, because of the pollen allergies. Also, I won’t be at the Giro this year anyway, because I have a really good programme for April with the Ardennes and Romandy and then have a rest in May. I’ll be riding the Ardennes Classics again. I know I can ride over 250 kilometres – I’ve done Liege four times now. I tend to choose the races I really enjoy rather than what I’m good at, but tend to have the habit of crashing in the races I like as well…crashing in Lombardy and crashing in Fleche-Wallonne, yea two years I’ve crashed out in Fleche-Wallonne. I’ll have a go at Amstel this year for the first time. I did start in it a few years ago, but it was my first race back after being sick. Those are races that suit my characteristics and that I can be really good in the future. Who knows, maybe this year I’ll be good?

In action at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

At the moment when it comes to the Grand Tours, it’s Tour or Vuelta. We will look at the course and the level I’m riding, but I’d like to be in the Tour de France team this year as I’ve missed out for the last couple of years. It’s always going to be a difficult team to get into, but that’s the aim for this year. Then after that, we will look at the Vuelta. The course for the Vuelta is quite inviting, but everyone is obsessed with the GC in the Grand Tours. For me, I’d rather win a stage than finish 10th or 11th or whatever. You never know what can happen in 19 days, you could be in the top three and have a bad day or a crash, and you will have missed out on all those opportunities. I’ll hopefully ride the Tour, and then if I go to the Vuelta and the overall was still available in the last week, then maybe I would start thinking about that. I’m an attacking kind of rider so it’s difficult for me to ride conservatively for the general. It might drive my director mad, but it works.

PEZ: Would you be looking to be team leader in those races?

Dan: I took that role in the Vuelta last year quite well. It was a new experience for me, but I think I’m still a bit inexperienced to do that in the Tour de France. Especially with the time trials for the general classification, it will suit Christian (Vande Velde) more. He has a really good chance to get on the podium this year, and if I can help him do that I will. In the future, it’s something I want to be thinking about.

Ready for 2012.

PEZ: What about the Worlds this year, that should suit you?

Dan: Yes, but I’m lucky as the next three Worlds suit me. Obviously, Gilbert will be strong on that course, and of course Valverde will be there too. I love the Worlds, I love circuit racing – it’s a lot harder mentally than normal road racing and it suits me. I’m really excited about Worlds, as the atmosphere will be great with so many people. If I arrive at the bottom of the Cauberg for the last time with the leaders, then I’ll know I’ll have a chance of at least being on the podium.

So if you want a bet for this year’s Worlds; then Dan Martin might be a good one. If you are into the betting then he might also be worth a flutter in Fleche, Amstel, Liege and of course Lombardy. Dan Martin: a man for many races and a great future.

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