De­flated Martin left be­hind as bad luck con­tin­ues

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports - SHANE STOKES

Asked on Satur­day if his legs were the same as when he won the race in 2013, Dan Martin shrugged off the ques­tion in an un­ex­pected way. “Well, they look the same,” he said, very de­lib­er­ately look­ing down­wards. What­ever pres­sure he was feel­ing on the eve of the Liège-Bas­togne-Liège clas­sic, he wasn’t go­ing to dwell on it.

Twenty-four hours later, things hadn’t gone as planned. The race ap­peared to be play­ing out well: his UAE Team Emirates squad worked early on to limit the gains of the day’s long break, and had him in a prom­i­nent po­si­tion as the kilo­me­tres ticked down. Then, when the at­tacks started fir­ing off, Martin was in the thick of them. He went clear with the Bel­gian Tim Wel­lens, and was in­volved in other skir­mishes af­ter they were brought back.

But then, dis­as­ter. The Lux­em­bourg rider Bob Jun­gels (Quick­Step Floors) at­tacked and, while a se­lect group of 15 chas­ing riders re­mained within reach, Martin in­cluded, his front tyre went soft just ahead of the Saint Ni­co­las climb, where he aimed to make a move. Be­cause of the punc­ture, his chances were over.

‘Im­por­tant team’

“I re­ally had a good legs to­day and this was thanks to the work I’m do­ing, and to the team,” he said af­ter­wards. “We made a plan for this race from the start to the fin­ish and we be­lieved in our chances. We showed that we are an im­por­tant team and we can race like one of the best teams in the world.

“At the end of the race, I had good feel­ings and I was ready to try to profit from the work of my team ear­lier on in the race. I tried to an­tic­i­pate the oth­ers’ moves with a se­ries of at­tacks be­cause I felt that it was the de­ci­sive mo­ment in the race, which it ended up be­ing. I’ve punc­tured in the worst of mo­ments and when I saw my front wheel was com­pletely flat, I could not be­lieve it.”

Martin lost im­por­tant time and en­ergy and rolled in 18th, two min­utes and 41 sec­onds be­hind Jun­gels.

The re­sult is the lat­est in a se­ries of frus­tra­tions for him. In early March he had to with­draw from Paris-Nice due to ill­ness. Two weeks later, he was in a prom­i­nent po­si­tion on the hilly fi­nal stage of the Volta a Catalunya, but crashed.

Then, last Wed­nes­day, he was caught be­hind a crash in the Flèche Wal­lonne race.

Sun­day was sup­posed to be about get­ting things back on track. In­stead, he’s still wait­ing for his for­tunes to shift. The plan now is to use that good con­di­tion in the Tour de Ro­mandie, which be­gins on Tues­day.

The legs? They are good. It’s his luck that needs chang­ing.

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