Dan Martin’s Inspirational Win

Many a weekend warrior sees the pro cyclist as a role model but it’s not so often that pro riders draw inspiration from a rival, at least in public. But here’s a quick note to explain how Dan Martin’s win in Liège-Bastogne-Liège seems to have inspire others.

The finale of La Doyenne was another highlight of the year. You might remember the Panda but it was a good race to watch too. From the top of La Redoute to the finish line the front of the race resembled a game of Tetris as it changed size, shape, composition all the time. A roll call of big names featured and eventually Dan Martin got the better of a small lead group containing the likes of Joaquin Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde, in part thanks to sacrificial work by Ryder Hesjedal. But how events happened is secondary, it was the win by a 26 year old rider that resonated with others. Don’t take my word for it…

This season Dan Martin’s win gives me the right to believe even more than before. He succeeded in getting past rides like Valverde and Rodriguez which you can’t ignore
– Romain Bardet

“Dan Martin’s win this year makes me think that you can even win this race when you’re quite young. You just have to believe.”
– Warren Barguil

Those are two translated quotes from Vélo Magazine’s current issue. Other riders are tweeting or thinking the same. Suddenly a classic, a Monument, might be in their reach and if a 26 year old can win, then they have a chance too, maybe not in 2014 but in the years to come. For a long time the big race have been reserved for older riders. Also as the past list of winners testifies, many names have correlated with the client roster of Michele Ferrari and others.

For a long time a race like Liège-Bastogne-Liège was out of reach for many. The distance and succession make it the ultimate one day race in terms of effort. The inverse of this means a doped rider had a huge advantage over a clean one. As the recent Humans Invent podcast sets out, a generation of riders, especially the French, saw “two speed cycling” and opted out the arms race needed to compete for the big races. Now this period is over – or just contained? – and French riders, for long the most defeatist, can dream of winning big. But it’s not just dopage, it seems the new generation recognise themselves in Dan Martin – who speaks French – and hope to imitate him. Time will tell.

You might have enjoyed watching the race back in April but some riders took more from it than a day’s entertainment. It wasn’t the biggest day of the year nor is it loaded high with symbolism, it’s just one example. But this small example is an illustration and it’s striking how Martin’s win has been mentioned several times by younger riders who now feel even the hardest races are within their reach.

34 thoughts on “Dan Martin’s Inspirational Win”

  1. Note the most inspirational rider for style but he’s good to watch. With allergy problems behind him I want to see what he can do in 2014.

  2. I’m not so sure that we can pass on the fact that “French riders weren’t good, that must be because they weren’t doping”…
    Not at all! At least reading the USADA report, it doesn’t seem that without doping you could just go on maybe without winning, but getting anyway your top ten placings here and there. It looked more like: “if I don’t dope, I barely can get to the finish line”.
    In fact, France had some good riders, the likes of Leblanc, Virenque, Jalabert…
    Even after that period, they were shining less, but many riders who were for sure less classy than those named before could make it to the head group or in the top-15, just like Pineau or Salmon or Vaugrenard, or Voeckler and Gadret.
    So what?
    It feels like pushing on silly stereotypes.

    Whatismore, I really don’t think that in Liège doping gives you such an huge advantage, especially comparing with GT. In one-day races tactics and choosing the right timing count a lot, and doping affects that (if you’re fresher, it’s easier to judge well), but really can’t produce racing intelligence. Di Luca clearly won without being the physically strongest rider in that race (altough a doper), Frank Schleck (as a doper…) was. The same is true for Vinokourov’s first win.
    Armstrong longed for a win in this race, and he was for sure a strong rider and potentially the most doped rider ever, but the “huge advantage” apparently wasn’t enough for him.
    Classic races seldom are a good “doping index”, if you want something like that you may look at time trials, if anything.
    The palmares portrayed doesn’t mean anything, most of the race would show something like that. And now we also know that the riders being caught or not mostly depends on the UCI attitude, not on the doping level in the peloton nor on the relation between difficulty of a particular race and doping.
    It would be more serious to say that if a rider hasn’t been caught positive in a particular race, and there aren’t other specific elements to suspect that he was doped that day, he isn’t different – in that race – from people that never were caught. Maybe they weren’t on doping, maybe they couldn’t be caught, maybe nobody tried to catch them.

    Speaking about that, I wonder if shouting out “I am clean, this is the new clean cycling” will still be “a la mode” between some cyclists now that the McQuaid clan started to crumble. Hoping that Cookson isn’t some kind of Gattopardo style “change it all, so that nothing changes”.


    • Gabriele, you really think doping wouldn’t help in a 1 day race? What about a 1 day race preceded by 2 other stressful, physiologically taxing races, where recovery is paramount? Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, etc have all said that one of the biggest advantages of doping is the ability to train harder day in and day out without taking time out to rest and recover. Surely in Ardennes week this would be essential, yes?

      I’m certainly not disparaging your POV, as the Ardennes are possibly the most tactical of the monuments, and Martin’s win might be the most tactically sound of all. But it seems silly to assume that in a race where fatigue and recovery would play such a major role, doping would only provide a slender advantage.

      Thanks inrng, as always, for a unique angle on an already engaging story. Martin’s win provides an interesting contrast to Gilbert’s treble.

      • I thought it was pretty clear that I was speaking in comparative terms. As inrng, it seemed.

        If doping wasn’t useful in absolute terms, people wouldn’t use it… I hope.

        Recovering in training, anyway, is pretty different from the matter of “three races in a week”. Many L-B-L winners dind’t even try to go for the treble, they used the first races to build up form or didn’t even go to Amstel or Fleche. Di Luca, Valverde, Vinokourov used to do like that and…, ouch, they were *big dopers*, so why should they hold back or build form?!?

        It’s all a bit more elaborate than the usual vision -.-

        Instead, I wonder how we should considerate the age factor. In Classics experience really plays a major, major role, so a young winner must have something to make up for that: e.g. intuition, luck, strength (features of a champion)… and/or doping, maybe 🙂

    • Gabriele – I think if you look back further to F Vandenbroucke, you can see how doping in L-B-L can be a help, his domination and attack in the big ring on the climbs.

      You do make a good point that you can’t link certain races as good doping indexes. Most races in that 99 – 06 era were tarnished by doping, and before and possibly after also.

      And regards the Schleck’s and Jason’s earlier comments, the Schleck’s accidentally paid money into Dr. Fuertes bank account – I think we can draw our own conclusions regarding them both.

      • When I look back to F. VdB I can see just a remarkable champion, about whom we don’t have any proof to say that he was doping much more than the majority of cyclists (unlike USPS’guys, for example: in that case we have some proofs to maintain that they were benefitting from a “better than average” doping system); but what we can actualy see is that he could dare and achieve actions which many big dopers couldn’t even dream.

        I believe (just a personal opinion) that if you practiced cycling, if you’ve been watching and following cycling with attention and passion along a certain number of years, you’ll become aware that in the *big picture*, in the long term, cycling is not an exercise of “power-metering”… cycling technique exists, and it matters a lot, and you can hope to see or feel that.
        It’s really important to be able to notice that characteristic, because doping can’t give a sportsman anything like that: when you’re enjoying it as a spectator, the fact of discovering that the athlete was doped will be less relevant, especially if he was living in an era of endemic doping (the last 35 years at least of professional sport…?).

        I’m just trying to say F. VdB had a massive amount of that *thing*, and that’s not something you’ll ever buy and inject.
        Ask around.

        • Andy just talked too much about people he didn’t know, and didn’t say a word (or worse, he said the wrong words) about that one rider he knew soooo well. See below.

    • In his book Tyler Hamilton describes his doping regime the year that he won LBL. He retransfused his own blood before the race. He seems to think that it helped him win.

      • Just as before so many other races he was interested in winning… That doesn’t mean that in L-B-L doping gives you an *especially great* advantage (in comparison with etc., see above).

        We could even say that L-B-L’s palmares is so full of recognized dopers (like so many other races, and we can even stress that those dopers were all caught doping… elsewhere) only because it’s a race suited to GT riders, and in a GT doping gives you huge advantages, indeed.

          • My English is horrible, but “we don’t have any proof to say that he was doping much more than the majority of cyclists ” means that I think he was probably doping *as* the majority of cyclists (or slightly more).
            That is, I’m saying he WAS doping… or, wow, do you really believe the majority of them was not doping at all during those years?
            Is that you, Hein?!?

  3. It isn’t necessarily about the age, young riders are winning Milano San Remo, and that runs for 300 clicks. It’s about who is the Leader.
    A team with any idea about it’s line up & tactics must plan to have a few riders fresh for a finale. You have a leader, his wing man and then mayhaps another domestique in-case a wheel is needed or a final drink. But they need to be strong enough to be there (of course). And that strength is sapped by the work done earlier in a race, especially like La Doyenne.

    If you are 26 and the team leader for a big one dayer then you are a lucky lucky boy.
    You’d be riding for a young teams, OR super talented, OR your leaders are injured or running a different program (for some reason).
    Imagine the contrary, A 32yo World Road Champ, playing finale domestique at a monument (Evans for Gilbert at Lombardia-2009). Some never get the chance to ride for themselves. (Guess thats why he left Lotto for BMC, always working for a Belgian when one was there).

    Andy Schleck won La Doyenne back when he was in his early twenties (with the help of super doms, Bjarne and some very proficient doctors), so Martin isn’t the first. It’s just Martin has done the hard yards at Garmin and earned his spot at the top, where as Schleck had a silver spoon in his pants and held his team to ransom.

    The Vuelta was great this year, with young French, Aussie & German men winning stages left and right. One abberation, a 42yo GC winner.

    • Isn’t Australia the country where, recently, a governmental inquiry (Project Aperio, Australian Crime Commision) established that pro sport has been deeply plagued with “widespread” doping?

      Isn’t Germany the country where ex-eastern and ex-western clinics, hospitals and universities have been continuously involved in doping or borderline treatments (*that* year it wasn’t doping, yet, it was going to be doping an year later, wow, that’s what I call to ride clean)?

      I won’t say anything more about France…

      • Sport is in our blood here in Australia. So, it’s certainly understandable, that there may be some other stuff in our blood too.

        In the late 70’s and early 1980’s we setup the Australian Institute of Sport to help win more golds at the Oly’s. Some staff employed had DUBIOUS records, when it came to training and athletes. Many a Russian, Pole or Romanian moved to our blessed melting pot to train our youth. Sad times.

        BUT. The muscle bound commercial sports like Rugby League, Aussie Rules (Beautiful game) DONT ANSWER to WADA and doping (steriods, vitamins) is more about commercial fraud. Team Sports are always rife with cheating, (BB is USA, Soccer..) and that is where cycling has come unstuck. RETURNCYCLING TO THE RIDER! (No teams, no D/S, No Buses – (just a bike, a bottle and a broken collar bone)

  4. oops, just to say–there are apparently two different “Jason’s” posting in this thread, on the same topic, and with more or less the same stance. That’s not at all confusing.

  5. Looking back at the 15 years that have gone by – and i think the worst thing now is that it’s not even a case of who doped – it’s a case of when did they dope, and for how long.

    Rightly or wrongly, you look at the Schlecks, Hesjedal, OGrady’s, Rogers who doped but apparently only for a year out of many – and then the Cobos and Horners of the world who defied age to win.

    On the one hand it’s unfair to believe guilty until proven innocent, but we’ve been fooled so many times before and I feel like I can’t even look back at the Vuelta with enjoyment.

    Luckily, there are stories like Dan Martin and quotes like that that do give you hope. That race was incredible and while the palmares is saddening, the future at least seems bright

    • Eh eh eh eh.

      As always everyone finds a way to say that *some* riders… doped accidentally, others substantially – defending this idea without much motive, I’d dare to say.

      Cobo and Hesjedal share a pretty similar profile; Frank Schleck has several controversial episodes in his past, and with his brothers and O’Grady he was in a team that is heavily suspected of team-doping.

      Age? Ok, Horner is… surprising… but Cobo won the Vuelta being 30, whereas O’Grady was 34 when he won Roubaix, and Rogers was 33 when he was producing brilliant showings on climbs for Team Sky. Hesjedal won the Giro when he was 32!

      I don’t know… I don’t find L-B-L palmares saddening at all, since the race was seldom won out of pure strength, and as in every sport, doping can’t give you everything that is neede to win some very technical competitions: I find hipocrisy much more saddening.

      For example, Andy heavily criticising positive riders; but he is so tied to his brother that he just couldn’t know what Frank was doing: note that I’m not saying that I’m sure Andy was doping (even if it could be inferred form his placings during some periods of cycling history…), but I find it horrible to say (publicly) horrible things about the dopers, on a human level, when you’re defending desperately one of them – Frank ; what is more depending, at least psychologically, from him! Andy could simply stay quiet.

      Riders boasting clean cycling? Experience tells you can’t get much hope from it.

      • would you point me to the andy quotes your referring to? i remember people being disappointed he didn’t hammer contador in the press at the time of his positive. . .

        • For example, 20th July 2008 about Riccò… what he did is “despicable”, I’m “happy” I won’t see him in the peloton, he deserves it for his “disrespectful” behavior , bad news for the sport, but on the other hand great news for cycling because “the great testing system can keep the problem under control”… something like that. I read it in Italian, directly in the press release from ANSA, and maybe I can’t remeber (or translate) everything perfectly, but it went like this, I’m pretty sure about what I “quoted”. It’s the standard UCI-bent, vaguely apple shiner declaration, but it’s especialy unpleasant when you know that probably he couldn’t ignore what his own brother was actually doing (by the way, I expressed this idea badly above, with “know” instead of “ignore”).
          Many young cyclists try (tried?) to buy themselves a kind of virginity (or trust from the media, or approval from sport’s political powers) with this kind of statements, and many were caught afterwards, so I’m not pointing out Andy, but I just cant’accept that kind of attitude.
          Even if a high-level cyclist wasn’t doping (…possible?…), he couldn’t ignore how cycling world worked, therefore “hammering” on colleagues as individuals while knowing the role of team managers, sponsors, poilitics and so seems just… “despicable” 🙂

          • Phil Liggett says cycling is the cleanest it’s ever been so there…

            Well ok, so he did say it five years ago, then ten years ago, and defend Lance strenuously…

          • to be fair though, ricco was pretty much a punching bag for pretty much everyone.

            it’s always interested me how for a few guys who get caught it’s open season on their reputation within the peloton, whereas most get the “benefit of the doubt” from other riders.

  6. +1 @gabriele

    The best sign of skill in another language is understanding their humour. You, Sir, have it sorted. Unfortunately, your knowledge of Australian sport vis a vis the Australian Crime Commission is not so precise.

    The ACC is a government department with an $100m annual budget, now widely ridiculed in sport and the general community. Those who actually even know about them, that is. Because they have failed to actually catch anyone to talk about.

    In February 2013 the ACC announced in a blaze of publicity “the darkest day in Australian sport” by the then Labor Party government. They proceeded to outline unsubstantiated waffle and not one genuine high level investigation or conviction since. There was match fixing in a 3rd tier soccer league, but in the context of Australian sport it was tiny. The fact is the ACC has pumped itself up to gain a bigger budget, but has no evidence or track record in what it claims are widespread drug use, trafficking, match fixing, etc.

    Im not for one minute suggesting Australian sport is clean though(especially the local version of football AFL, which is only just now is beginning to understand its own codes’ player’s drug use, despite missing the fact that one of its best players stepped out of the game with a methamphetamine addiction despite never testing positive as a player?!).

    Australia has had its dopers in cycling, and a ostrich-like view of them which is also probably Anglo-saxon bias (which the UK has also). Our own boys can’t be drug cheats?! Stuart O’Grady’s pitiful excuses and lies right now, and the continued employment of Neil Stephens at orica GreenEdge, are evidence of that.

Comments are closed.