Deflated Martin left behind as bad luck continues
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.
“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.