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“They say that you have to learn how to race up that climb and every year I seem to get a little bit better. Every year I seem to get better and better but this year was a different race," Martin says

Photo: Sirotti








23.04.2014 @ 18:39 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Having finished 6th and 4th in the last two editions of the race, Daniel Martin continued his steady progression in the Fleche Wallonne when he took a fine 2nd in today's race. The Irishman has had a quiet start to the season and was pleased to hit his target in his first objective of the season on a great day that also had Tom-Jelte Slagter in the top 5.


By winning last year's Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finishing 4th in both Fleche Wallonne and the Gour of Lombardy, Daniel Martin has shown that he is one of the very best riders for the hilly one-day races but ahead of this year's Ardennes classics his condition was a bit of a question mark. With a focus on the Giro, he has done very little racing so far and things only got more doubtful when he abandoned the Amstel Gold Race with knee pain.


Coming down from his first ever altitude training camp, however, Martin always insisted that he was feeling very good and today he put his good form on show when he finished 2nd in the Fleche Wallonne, his first big target of the season. The Garmin-Shap rider continued his steady progression in the uphill sprint on the Mur de Huy after having finished 6th and 4th in the last two editions of the race.


“They say that you have to learn how to race up that climb and every year I seem to get a little bit better,” Martin said at the post-race press conference. “Every year I seem to get better and better but this year was a different race. It was really fast from the bottom of the climb. Usually there’s a little bit of looking at each other but it was just flat out the whole way up.


"Alejandro was the strongest today. With a hundred meters to go I did think that I might have it but he blew passed and left me for dead.”


Martin wasn't bothered by his knee injury.


“Even on Monday my knee was fine. It was 100 per cent for me today and we had an incredibly strong team and it was such a fast race but we had Ramunas [Navardauskas] in the break from the start and as far as the team went it was perfect. They kept me in position and relaxed and that really helped because it’s really important to save energy in this race.


“I knew that I’d been training well but obviously training is different to racing. This is my first result of the year and it’s my first objective of the year so it’s nice to come away with the podium in the first race I’ve been aiming for, ahead of Sunday and of course the Giro.


"That’s my really big goal for the first part of the year, the whole season really, so it’s nice to have that confidence boost and know that what I’ve been doing in training has been going well.”


Martin now marks himself out as an obvious favourite for Liege-Bastogne-Liege where he is the defending champion.


“Liège is more a war of attrition and you don’t see the same sort of explosiveness in the final. This race is very much a waiting game but Liège is more tactical and team tactics play more of a part.


"I think Liège is a different race because some guys just can’t race into that sixth hour whereas this race I think it was around 4:40. It’s a different animal but I think that if you go well here, then you have the form for Sunday.”


Martin wasn't the only Garmin-Sharp rider to do well on the Mur de Huy. Tom-Jelte Slagter continued his excellent start to the season by finishing 5th on the Mur de Huy, again confirming his skills in the hilly one-day races that are not too long.


"Last year fourteenth, now fifth," he told NOS. "I need to come here again next year. I am satisfied with 5th. Then you are up there with the best.


"It was always very fast. On the climbs I always had the feeling that I was on the limit. Then you are not very confident for the finale.


"I had to brake very hard [because of the late crash that involved Cunego and Rodriguez]. I thought that it was over. Then I did everyhting to move forward. At least, I started near the front. It is nice to finish 5th.


"It's good for the confidence that I can do this but Fleche Wallonne suits me better than Liege, especially with the finish on the Mur de Huy. This race is shorter and that is currently still in my favour."



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