DUBLIN (VN) — Daniel Martin, winner of the 2013 Liège–Bastogne–Liège, admitted last week that concentrating on the Giro d’Italia, which begins in Belfast in May, may see him miss the Tour de France this year.
“I’m not sure at the moment to be honest,” Martin said of his plans for July. “It depends how I come out of the Giro, depends on how the Giro goes. If the Giro goes badly and I end up not finishing it for some reason, then the Tour becomes a very real possibility. If you race the Giro fully to the end and are competitive all the way to the end it will be very difficult to go and race the Tour, but it’s the biggest race of the year. It would be hard to miss it.”
On a short break from training, Martin was in Dublin to cut the ribbon on the new Top Flat Ward at Temple Street National Children’s Hospital, which was partly funded by his Cycle4Life charity ride and includes four new evaluation rooms to monitor children living with epilepsy or cystic fibrosis or suffering from infection.
“I visited the new Top Flat in April, before the renovations began, and it hadn’t been touched since the early 1900s. It was 80 or 90 years old and to see the difference now … it’s incredible. The facilities are mind blowing. To have the opportunity to cut the ribbon and open somewhere that Cycle4Life has helped pay for, and to meet so many of the kids in here made for a really special morning in the hospital,” Martin said. “I don’t think many people realize how much the hospital relies on private funding from events like Cycle4Life and others to do improvements. The day-to-day running is covered by the government, but the improvements that need to be made, the funds for them have to be raised privately. I feel really privileged and fortunate to have the opportunity to help out in that way.”
Earlier in the week, Martin took some time out to visit Merrion Square, where stage 3 of this year’s Giro will finish.
“I did a bit of a recon of the Giro route by foot the last couple of days, walking up around Merrion Square and standing where the finish will be and I’m already getting goosebumps,” he said. “The reaction I’ve had when I’ve been home, people stopping me in the street, it’s been special and the fact that the Giro is coming here really hit home the last few days. I think there’s going to be a huge buzz about the place. I don’t think people quite understand the level of the WorldTour here, all the glamor of the team buses, the bikes, all the helicopters and all the vehicles. It’s just going to be immense. I think it’s going to bring a real buzz to Ireland and hopefully the boom in cycling here will increase even more and the sport will become even more popular.”
Although he will miss the Tour Méditerranéen in February for the first time in his seven-year career, the rest of Martin’s early-season race program will follow a similar course as previous seasons in the lead up to the Giro, with the Ardennes classics and a defense of his Liège title among his early targets.
“It’s essentially the same program I did last year, but instead of having a holiday after Liège, I’ll be riding the Giro. I was in top form at [Volta a] Catalunya and Liège last year and I’ll just try to keep the ball rolling. The Giro is something I’m just going to take in my stride I think. It’s hard to say how it’s going to go. I’ll be going into it as always, taking it as it comes. The real aim will be to win a stage. To have won a stage in all three grand tours already in my career would be an incredible achievement.”
If he does manage a stage win at the Giro, he will become only the second Irishman in history, after Shay Elliot completed the hat trick in 1963, to win a stage in all three major tours.
Before all that, though, Martin is due to meet his new teammates at a Garmin training camp in Mallorca in February. With 10 new signings over the winter, Martin has gone from being one of the youngest riders on the team to being one of the elder statesmen, and realizes he will now be called upon for advice more than ever.
“Having the whole team together will be great. I’ll get to meet my teammates who have already started to win races. We have nine or 10 new guys this year and I’ve gone from being one of the youngest guys to one of the oldest guys on the team in the space of a few months. Leading a team has its pressure, but it’s been a gradual process and it’s something I’ve got used to and I’m looking forward to it, but I think this status of ‘I’m the team leader’ is an ego boost more than anything. If you’re the strongest guy in the team, you should be the team leader. It’s a team sport, not an individual sport. I might even take on a bit of a road captain role some times this year. It’s a bit of a daunting thing to have to make calls on the road and kind of guide the team, but it’s also something I think I’m ready for now. My confidence, my ability, is higher than ever now and I think that belief I have, I’m always very good at transferring that into my teammates. Obviously, I need to do the hard work and do the training first, but hopefully by the end of the season we’ll be in the same place we were last year and we’ll be able to keep the ball rolling.”