Relief, pleasure – and surprise that the last stage was so straightforward – sum up Irish pro Dan Martin?s reactions to overall victory in the Route du Sud.
?It was actually a lot easier than I expected.? Slipstream rider Martin, who started the day with an advantage of 1-42 overall on closest rival Christophe Moreau, told Cycling Weekly on Sunday evening.
?Five out of the seven Slipstreams were still there at the finish and I think that says something about how straightforward it was.?
The key challenge was a final climb 20 kilometres from the finish where a rival team, Miche, put down a ferocious pace ?which kept things together. I still don?t know why they did that.?
?But then we took over three kilometres from the top and although I was really worried about Moreau, he couldn?t have attacked at that pace.? After that, barring a last-minute disaster it was effectively game over and the Route du Sud 2008 belonged to Dan Martin.
With all bar nine other riders on the gc at 30 minutes behind Martin or more and only Moreau in the real danger zone at under two minutes, it was more or less a given that Slipstream would let a break go on the final stage.
?There were a lot of attacks early on and it was really pretty crazy, but once the break had finally gone things settled down. We weren?t riding that hard at all in the bunch for most of the day, I felt pretty comfortable. I never got out of breath. I?m recovering really well at the moment, it?s great.?
Martin singles out Slipstream team-mate Tyler Farrar who did about ?180 kilometres on the front.? [of the 207 kilometre stage]. ?Even when he got dropped he came back again and then did some more work. He was amazing.?
“Really I had an armchair ride – and it’s all thanks to my team-mates hard work.”
Asked if his achievement of taking a race like the Route du Sud – with former winners as prestigious as Laurent Jalabert, Francesco Moser, and Martin?s relative, a certain Stephen Roche – had truly sunk in, Martin?s response was a simple ?not really.?
?I mean, first you think – hey, it?s just a bike race. In one sense, it’s the same as if it was a junior event, guys with numbers on their backs.?
?But then you realize who you?ve been racing against, what this race really is. Maybe afterwards when I read about in the magazines it?ll really sink in.?
Dan Martin wins Route du Sud