BERGAMO, Italy (VN) — Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) has not had an easy year, with crashes in several big races, but the Irish rider put all that behind him with victory in Il Lombardia on Sunday.
“It’s been incredible after finishing second here before and crashing on the last corner last year,” Martin said as the sun sat on Bergamo’s center.
“That crash in Lecco, where Lombardia finished last year, was the start of my bad luck. This win, though, changes everything. This is the full circle. To win Lombardia, a monument. I don’t know what to say.”
It was the second victory in a monument for the 28-year-old Irishman, who won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2013. Cycling only gives the monument title to five one-day classics, so Martin was pleased to add a second one — and to stay upright.
Starting with Lombardia 12 months ago, he crashed in the critical moments of big races. He fell in the last corner while trying to defend his Liège title, and hit the deck again two weeks later in the opening team time trial at the Giro d’Italia. Worst yet, that crash was in Belfast, in front of many of his fans.
“We worked really hard, but got kicked down. Not even to finish the first stage in Belfast hurt. I also did a lot of damage to the team and that hurt,” Martin said.
“This year has been a difficult one. I crashed in the Vuelta a España too. Also in the world championships last week.”
It’s been difficult, Martin said. But he knew his luck would change.
“I’m always positive,” he said. “I thought that after a difficult year, it’s easier to be motivated and to train hard. A lot of people get tired mentally. I didn’t want to finish the season without a victory. I was really focused after the Vuelta a España, and now I have my first win of 2014. And it’s a big one.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Liège and Lombardia are Martin’s favorite races.
“I love these races, the long races,” he said. I”n the 2009 Lombardia I really saw my potential in these long races, I got eighth. It is funny because I got 16th, eighth, fourth and second, and so it’s natural I get first. It was either first or 32nd to complete the series.”
Martin now has two of the climbers’ monuments. Though he has the capability to win Milano-Sanremo, the other two — the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix — appear out of his reach.
In the meantime, Martin wants to add one more one-day race to his palmarès, Flèche Wallonne, and to continue to improve in stage racing. At the recent Vuelta a España, he placed seventh overall.
“I proved in the Vuelta that I can ride for the classification in grand tours. I’m still a few years away from being able to win one, though,” Martin said.
“One-day races are special, a lot more tactical than stage races, and you have to take risks to win. I love this type of racing. I wanted to win three races at the start of my career: Liège, Lombardia and Flèche Wallonne. I only have one left, that’s incredible to say because I’m only 28 years old.”