"Shocked" - Dan Martin on his victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Garmin-Sharp rider reveals his Tour of Catalonia win provided perfect omen for him to follow in Sean Kelly's footsteps...
Dan Martin has spoken of his "shock" at winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège this afternoon, a victory that has seen him achieve something even his uncle, the great Stephen Roche, never managed - adding a Monument to his palmares. Birmingham-born Martin, son of British Olympic cyclist Neil Martin and Roche's sister Maria, joins two-time victor Sean Kelly as the only Irish rider to have won cycling's oldest Monument.
Martin said that as he crossed the finish line after reeling in and passing Rodriguez on that final kick up to the finish, "I was shocked. Complete shock. I couldn’t believe it."
Team mate Ryder Hesjedal had attacked on the Côte de Colonster with a little under 20 kilometres to ride, and had an advantage of 20 seconds as he hit the foot of the final big climb, the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, although there was still one more ascent to come at the edge of the race, and it was to prove decisive as Martin countered Rodriguez's attack to win.
Martin was one of five riders who managed to get across to Hesjedal - the others, besides Rodriguez, were Alejandro Valverde, Michele Scarponi and Carlos Betancur - and explained afterwards: "The idea was to get someone in front and that’s what Ryder did and I just stayed behind with the others. I couldn’t believe how easy it was in Saint-Nicolas. I was totally in control and followed any attack that went.
"With Ryder in front I was in the perfect position. We eventually caught him at the top of the climb and he rode flat out for me. It was a fantastic team effort from all the team. Every single of our riders rode their hearts out today. Me and Ryder were already in the Top 10 last year so it really is a good race for us.
Last month, Martin won the overall in the Tour of Catalonia and he revealed this evening that it had proved to be a portent for today's race. "Actually somebody texted me last night that the first year that Sean Kelly won Catalunya, he won Liège weeks later. That was back in 1984.
"That was a bit of an omen and I’ve been thinking about it all week. After finishing fourth of the Fleche Wallonne, I thought that maybe I could win. All these little things were adding up. I was in a complete state of zen all day. Just so calm.
Now aged 26, Martin had already achieved a Vuelta stage win in 2011, followed up a month later by a second-place finish in the Giro di Lombardia, but his successes this season have raised him to a new level.
Asked what lay behind that transformation, he said: "I think it’s just maturing physically and the confidence as well. I’ve definitely made a big step this winter. Maybe the Tour last year brought me a lot.
"I found a massive difference in my body this past year. I’ve grown up basically. I think that it’s also an age thing. And for these races, the more mature guys do well. There’s also the confidence of my team as well. That belief has given me that extra edge. "
Martin added that as he crossed the finish line after reeling in and passing Rodriguez on that final kick up to the finish, "I was shocked. Complete shock. I couldn’t believe it."
He concluded: "I race on instinct. I don’t think about what’s happening during the race. I just try and win. Actually finding myself in front of the finish line of Liège-Bastogne-Liège with my arms in the air, it’s incredible."