Hampered by knee pain, Dan Martin saves his strength for down the road

The reigning Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion found himself sidelined by knee pain at the Amstel Gold Race

VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — It probably wasn’t the ending Dan Martin expected, this sitting in the door of the bus after abandoning the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. Martin, after all, is the defending Liège-Bastogne-Liège champ and a lover of these hilly classics.

But on this warm day in the Netherlands, Martin was forced to pull out of Amstel, citing knee pain. There was buzz that he’d crashed out of the race, though the team quickly put the clamps on that.

“I’m fine. I just had a pretty bad day. … My knee started to hurt a little bit and I just didn’t want to take any chances. I’ve got the Giro coming up and I’ve got Flèche on Wednesday and Liège on Sunday, you know? And it’s like — I’m a bit sad I couldn’t help the guys in the final, you know, but yeah, I’ve got to think big picture a bit more… and I just wasn’t on a good day,” Martin told VeloNews after the race unwound.

He’s expected to start La Flèche Wallonne Wednesday, and line up for La Doyenne Sunday.

“I’ve been having a bit of an issue with my knee the last week or so. It’s a case of every day it’s been improving. And we’ve got the best staff in the world here to look after at. Every day it’s been getting better and better, I just ran out of days,” he said. “It’s nothing serious at all.”

Rather than suffer on, the 27-year-old pulled the plug, electing to save his bullets — bullets Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) indicated everyone else will need to stall his attempt at Ardennes-week history.

“I just didn’t have any spark, you know? I think it’s also coming down from altitude. It’s the first time I’ve ever done altitude so I don’t know how my body reacts. I’ve only been down at sea level for five days so far, so, it’s obviously a bit of a learning experience,” he said.

“But again, we’re aiming for the Giro, and today we were riding for Tom [Jelte Slagter] as well. Tom and Fabian [Wegmann] were our leaders today. I was here to help them and unfortunately couldn’t do my job. I’m still pretty happy with how my legs are. Just rest up and try to be as fresh as possible for Wednesday.”

Asked if he was worried, he didn’t say he was, or seem so.

“Not at the moment, no. Should be — it’s a long time between now and then, you know? Hopefully we’ll be 100 percent.”