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"I was surprised with the sensations and I'm feeling really good. I felt good at altitude and I'm getting my body into the swing of things again. I had a couple of niggles last week but I'm excited and optimistic about the...

Photo: ASO












19.04.2014 @ 14:21 Posted by Joseph Doherty

Daniel Martin may be the biggest enigma of the Ardennes Classics in 2014. He has not been in form in 2014 so far as his big goal is the Giro d’italia but when you have as much quality as Martin has, as well as the incentive of being the defending Liege-Bastogne-Liege champion, it is difficult to tell how he will go.


Despite his lack of form, he is still expected by many to get a good result.


 "I don't see it as pressure," he told Cyclingnews.


"Last year is done and dusted and while I've not forgotten about wining Liege, it's in the past now. It's all about this year. Obviously wearing number one at the race is going to be incredible and it's a pleasure to rider that race every year. I love the race so much. The passion that I have for these races gives me the extra percentages but as long as I do my best, and the team gives everything, we'll just wait and see what the results are in the end. That's all I can ask for."


The Irishman on the Garmin-Sharp team has always been talented and is one of the most lethal riders on a climb, but last year showed him he could be the very best. Before 2013, he had a GC win in the Tour of Poland and a Vuelta stage win as his best results but after 2013, he was the winner of the oldest Classic of them all as well as a Tour de France stage winner and the overall champion in the Volta a Catalunya.


"I'm coming into these races incredibly confident because I know that I can win them now. I would never go into them aiming for top ten, and I've never been like that anyway. I've always just wanted to go into races in order to give my best. I've got a good track record and my best in these races is pretty good," he said.


"That's where the big difference has come in the last couple of years. Psychologically I'm a lot stronger in that I can focus for the whole race and do everything right. So as long as there's no bad luck I don't see why there's any reason we can't contest for a win in at least one of the races. I don't know about all three but Fleche and Liege, they do suit me better."


Despite the lack of form, the Irishman is still confident about being able to have a successful Ardennes campaign before heading to the Giro, which starts in Ireland.


"I feel good. I used De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne how I wanted to and I got out of it what I wanted. I was riding in the wind for Nathan [Haas] a bit and making the race a lot harder for the finale but I was still there without too much trouble," he explained.


"I was surprised with the sensations and I'm feeling really good. I felt good at altitude and I'm getting my body into the swing of things again. I had a couple of niggles last week but I'm excited and optimistic about the coming week."


"I went into Tirreno-Adriatico suffering from an illness. I was 100 per cent healthy but I just wasn't totally firing. I couldn't go flat out and my body was in a bit of shock when I then went flat out in Catalunya. It was the first time I'd gone really hard since October but I think it's going to work well for the Giro and I think I'm going into the Ardennes with a really solid base."


Despite Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race being the least suited to Martin of all three races, he loves all three Ardennes Classics.

"I love all three of them, and all for different reasons," he said.


"Amstel, I've still not figured it all out yet but that takes experience. I've done Fleche-Wallonne six times and Amstel I've only done two or three times. It's still a learning process but I think have the capacity to be strong in all three."


"What's more we have a really strong team for Amstel. We can play the numbers but Fleche is one of my favourite races and it suits me. I'm learning how to ride it better each year and hopefully the boys can

put me in a great position for the final climb."


"The atmosphere is fantastic within the squad. We're having a great time, and the atmosphere is great. It's a united team and we're all willing to work and sacrifice things for each other. If any of us can win it will be great success."


Only time will tell if Martin has timed his form to perfection or whether he really is just hoping to get through these races with a top 10 and can focus on impressing his home fans next month.




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