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Martin well prepared for Liege showdown

Posted 23 April 2010

Dan Martin is confident that his decision to skip Amstel Gold will pay off when it matters most in Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege and that he is going into the race in much better condition than previous years.

The Garmin Transitions rider has been meticulous in his preparation for ‘La Doyenne’ and has taken time to apply the lessons that he has learned from his previous two appearances in the race.

“Doing three classics in one week for my age is quite a lot. I felt really tired before I got round to Liege last year and it took a lot out of me. This year I have been careful not to spread myself too thin because Liege suits me to the ground and I would prefer to hit it fresher,” he told Irish Pro Cycling.

The 23 year old is a different rider to the one who finished 118th (2008) and 99th (2009) in the previous two editions of the race.

He success in finishing 8th in last year’s Tour of Lombardy and his performance in finishing 18th in Wednesday’s Fleche Wallonne just 19 seconds behind winner Cadel Evans is a clear indication that he is well capable of a big result in the most prestigious classic of them all.

“I prefer Fleche Wallonne to Liege but then Liege suits me better than Amstel. All of these races suit my ability but I’m physically more fresh for Liege this year than I was last year. The other thing is that I know what to expect,” he said.

The Irishman is comfortable about racing over 258 kilometres for more than six hours but, surprisingly, does not believe that the renowned climb of La Redoute will decide the outcome of this year’s race.

The legendary climb with gradients pitching to 15% has always had a role to play in shaping the race and while the race may not be won on the climb it can certainly be lost with just 34.5 kilometres to the finish in Ans.

“The insertion of two new climbs before La Redoute takes away the importance of La Redoute as a climb in its own right and those new climbs are going to make things very interesting,” he said.

Martin was referring to the organiser’s decision to remove the Haute Levee and Vecquee climbs which were a feature of previous editions of the race and to introduce the Col du Maquisard and Mount Theux in the 25 kilometre run into the climb of La Redoute.

The Col du Maquisard has an average gradient of 4.5% over 2.8 kilometers while Mount Theux averages 5.2% gradient over 2.7 kilometres.

“Liege is a beautiful course and it really comes down to the survival of the fittest at the end. It has more opportunities and everyone wants to win but it is usually the strongest guys who win,” Martin said.

“I know La Redoute now. I did it last year and the year before and that was where I got dropped last year. That climb is so far from the finish. There is still over 30 kilometres to go. That’s very early to be showing your hand.

“The climb of the Cote de la Roche with 15 kilometres to go is harder, it’s over 9% and strategically more important because it is so close to the finish. And then you have the climb of the Cote de Saint Nicolas lying between the two to think about,” he said.

Martin has had plenty of time to recover from Fleche Wallonne and his climbing prowess over the short Ardennes hills has been impressive. Irish cycling fans will be watching with interest on Sunday to see how his form holds up.

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