ANS, Belgium (VN) — Daniel Martin gave Garmin-Sharp its second monument win and capped off his steady one-day race progression today in the 99th Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“I cannot believe it. I am really in shock,” Martin said at the finish line, moments after becoming the first Irishman in 24 years to win “La Doyenne.”
Martin crossed the line three seconds ahead of Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) after countering last season’s No. 1 rider in the race’s final seconds. He found teammate Ryder Hesjedal and embraced him.
“Thanks,” said Martin. Hesjedal responded, “Dude, I can’t believe it.”
ASO officials whisked Martin to the press area off to the side, where his win began to sink in.
“The team rode like I’ve never seen them ride before,” Martin said. “They protected me all day. … I am so happy. I just cannot believe it.”
Martin’s win in the final classic of the spring added to victories in the Japan Cup and Italy’s Tre Valli Varesine in 2010, a second-place finish in the Giro di Lombardia in 2011 and fourth in Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday.
‘Incredible’ teamwork lands Garmin a second monument
Hesjedal remained with his Garmin teammates, celebrating, when Martin rode to the podium. One-by-one, they came in, including Peter Stetina, who has been with the team since junior when the squad launched as a development project. They celebrated as if it were one of their own wins, which it was. Each played his part in seeing the 26-year-old Martin to victory.
“It was incredible,” Hesjedal said, cleaning the dirt from his face. “I knew we had a chance to win today and that’s saying a lot, but I think we showed that was a warranted idea.”
With his Giro d’Italia defense set to open in two weeks, Hesjedal broke free 16 kilometers from the finish. When Martin’s group caught him, the Canadian turned into a super domestique.
“Ryder was decisive for me,” said Martin. “He worked and the others worked, and I could save my legs for the sprint.”
Best day of his life
Hesjedal starts in the Giro in Naples on May 4. Martin goes on holiday, where he will consider what the Liège-Bastogne-Liège wins means for his career.
“He’s been riding great, he’s on peak form. He takes a holiday tomorrow and it’ll probably be the best day of his life,” Hesjedal said. “The meaning of this for Dan? That’s a good question. He showed his potential and that’s what it’s all about. We got to share the workload in the team, like I said, I’m getting ready for the Giro, but those guys still let me have a leader role here, and coming up with a victory that way, it’s unbelievable.”
Martin arrived to the Ardennes in good spirits thanks to his win in Spain’s Volta a Catalunya stage race in March. With that stage race and a handful of smaller one-day wins, he built up an impressive palmares. However, Liège-Bastogne-Liège easily sits on top of any win to date.
“I knew I could win a race like Liège-Bastogne-Liège some day,” Martin said. “For the team, it’s huge. Johan [Vansummeren] won Paris-Roubaix for us in 2011, and this, this is incredible. We don’t win very often but when we do, it’s very big. I can’t believe it. It’s fantastic, it’s a dream.”