Dan Martin returned from his first altitude camp on Monday. His goal: win the Giro d’Italia. Before he embarks on the Giro, last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège victor will lead Garmin-Sharp in the Ardennes Classics this week.
“I love these races,” Martin told Cycling Weekly. “They suit my characteristics. If I come away with a win or a podium in Liège, it takes pressure off the Giro. I’m definitely going for results.”
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Martin made the final group in Liège’s outskirts last year with team-mate Ryder Hesjedal. He responded to an attack by Joaquím Rodríguez and dropped him ahead of the final bend.
“I’d take anything, all three of them. I love them all. We have a strong team. We will be competitive in all three. I think Flèche Wallonne and Liège suit me better. I’d love to win Flèche Wallonne after Liège last year, that’s always been my favourite race of the three.
“I’m not sure I’ll be able to reach the heights again this year but we’ll see. I’m the optimist, if it’s not one race, there’s always one around the corner.”
The Birmingham-born cyclist who races with an Irish licence spoke ahead of Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday. He stepped out of the Garmin bus in his blue team racing kit and smiled under the Belgian sun. He explained that he was unsure how he would race two days after a camp at 2350 metres in Sierra Nevada, Spain. Five hours later, the 27-year-old placed 56th.
“It was my first time at altitude. It’s a big question mark on how I’ll go,” he added. “I need to get used to the air and get the legs spinning again. I’ve never done it so I don’t know how my body will react. It’s a learning experience.”
His Giro preparations are more important than 56th place in Brabantse Pijl. The team suggested he train in Sierra Nevada to be ready. They sent him there with Alex Howes and Phil Gaimon, and support staff.
After winning Liège and the Tour de France stage to Bagnéres de Bigorre last year, Garmin gained more confidence in Martin. It led to an eventual green light to lead the troops in the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
The American team has yet to finalise its nine-man roster, but he should be racing side-by-side with former winner Ryder Hesjedal and Dutch talent Tom-Jelte Slagter.
“Ryder and I will both start on equal levels, he has a better record in Grand Tours, obviously, and I’m still developing.”
Martin spoke more about his time at the high-altitude camp than the Giro. He met a group of British runners in Sierra Nevada and enjoyed himself in conversation when he was not riding. He called it, “altitude in style.”
The time in thin air should help his fitness but already re-enforced his confidence ahead of the Ardennes Classics and the Giro.
“I’ll be really good for the Giro,” he said. “I’m to sure for the Ardennes, but hopefully it’ll be all guns blazing.”
Garmin-Sharp's Dan Martin sets out his aims for the 2014 season, including the Giro d'Italia's start in Ireland
Dan Martin being chased by a panda en route to his win in Liège-Bastogne-Liège was one of the images of