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Dan Martin is focusing on the spring races after a...

Martin looks ahead to Volta a Catalunya, Ardennes Classics

The Irishman finishes 25th in Tirreno-Adriatico as he prepares for the spring races

MILAN (VN) — Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) is getting into his groove ahead of the Volta a Catalunya and the Ardennes Classics. Over the last week in Italy, he rode to 25th overall in the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race.

Martin told VeloNews he wanted to use the race as a way of getting used to the stress and the bump-and-grind of the WorldTour peloton ahead of the Volta a Catalunya later this March and the Ardennes Classics at the end of April, starting with the Amstel Gold Race on April 19.

“I’d love to have something from the race, I’m a racer after all, but obviously I have less racing than the other boys who’ve done Ruta del Sol or the Tour of Oman, and that’s a big advantage,” Martin said.

He began his season with two days in the Mallorca Challenge at the end of January and the Trofeo Laigueglia on February 19.

“But it’s a different ball game here. It takes you time to get into the groove of the peloton,” Martin added. “Tirreno worked well to prepare me for Catalunya and this block of racing is important for the Ardennes, too.”

That “groove” is important as Martin tries to build on his past successes. Last year, despite crashing out of the Giro d’Italia and in the final meters of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Martin shined.

He placed second in Flèche Wallonne behind Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and seventh in the Vuelta a España behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). He won a stage in the Tour of Beijing and of course, Il Lombardia with a brave last-minute solo attack.

The Irishman said he knew his luck would turn around in 2014. Now, with a good base of training and racing that includes some snowy and wet days in Tirreno-Adriatico, he is ready for Catalunya, which he won in 2013, and the Ardennes Classics.

“The main goal is in the future,” Martin said. “Tirreno-Adriatico puts me in a good position for Catalunya thanks to the race speed. From here, I’ll back off and recover.”

Cannondale is taking its A-team to Catalunya, which is nearly a home race with its Girona base in the Catalonia region of Spain. Besides Martin, Joe Dombrowski, Ryder Hesjedal, and Andrew Talansky are part of the green team’s roster.

Judging by the WorldTour classification for Catalunya released overnight, a result would be warmly welcomed. Sky, with Richie Porte’s win in Paris-Nice, leads with 290 points. Movistar sits second and Etixx-Quick-Step is third. Out of the 17 WorldTeams, Jonathan Vaughters’ Cannondale team is the only one without a point.

This winter, bike manufacture Cannondale left its Italian team with the same name and put its sponsorship behind Vaughters. Besides sponsorship, the team welcomed eight cyclists from the former Italian squad. It also signed coach Sebastian Weber, who has worked with HTC-Highroad, Katusha, and Cannondale.

“Last year, after working with Adrie Van Diemen, I went my own way and stuck to the basics,” Martin said. “This winter, I began working with Webber, who’s tweaked my training.”