Two time Tour de France stage winner Dan Martin knows that riding your bike should be fun, whether it's on the roads of the 'Grande Boucle' or a local potter around with your friends. Cycling should be spontaneous, interesting and entertaining – it should clear a hole in your stomach for that amazing dinner you're going to have when you get home, it should be a chance to feel the sun and the wind and the rain on your face, and when it stops being fun, that's when something needs to change.
It was growing up surrounded by amateur and professional cyclists that gave the young Dan Martin his level-headed outlook on the sport and paved the way for what, on paper, seems to be one of the healthiest careers in the pro-peloton. When, as Junior British Road Champion, he was told by David Brailsford that British Cycling didn't have anything to offer him if he wouldn't ride on the track, Dan knew that he wasn't willing to give up the joy of racing on the roads and, through his mother's roots, chose to represent Ireland in official competition instead.
You see, Dan comes from a family of cyclists –his paternal grandfather raced grass track, his Dad is two-time Olympian Neil Martin, his maternal uncle is Triple Crown winner Stephen Roche, and his cousin is our LeBlanq Ireland special guest Nicolas Roche. He might be the youngest of the Martin/Roche clan but he has more than held his own. It was watching his Dad race on TV, surrounded by cycling results pages, magazines and books, that gave him an eye for tactics, and in his own words, watching his top-of-his-game uncle Stephen – World Champion and winner of the Tour de France, and Giro d'Italia – enjoy family dinners without calorie counting or concerning himself with dietary restrictions, which instilled a belief that you could ride your bike professionally without having to starve yourself.
Before he even touched a bike, Dan had a surer sense of what it means to ride than most pros on the circuit. He knew he wanted to ride his bike and he wanted to enjoy it, and he took that perspective with him into his career, and what a career it was. Starting at VC La Pomme in Marseilles as an amateur, Dan joined Jonathan Vaughters' team Slipstream-Chipotle as a neo-pro in 2008. The same year he won the Irish National championships and the Rut du Sud. In 2011, he won his first Grand Tour stage finishing first on Stage 9 of the Vuelta a Espana and wore the King of the Mountain's jersey for two stages becoming the first Irish cyclist to do so. In 2013 he won his first stage of the Tour de France, and followed that up with a second in 2018.
Over his 13 year professional career he would win Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Giro di Lombardia, Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Pologne, stages of the Criterium du Dauphine, Tour of Beijing and Volta ao Algarve before, in his final season, winning stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia and completing the hat trick of wins in each Grand Tour.
As for those tactics learned watching his Dad racing as a kid? They contributed to Dan's old-school approach to racing which includes, well, actually racing. No marginal gains or overarching plans here, just determination, an ability to read the road and a good old fashioned eye for a well-timed attack. A regular on Most Combative lists, and never one to shy away from a solo break, his racing style made him the perfect candidate for wins in stage races and during tough one day events like the Ardennes classics – a fact proven by his eight top five finishes in Liege and La Fleche Wallonne.
Dan Martin's retirement in 2021 stands as a kind of end of an era. His devil may care attitude exemplified earlier by his Dad and Uncle's generation has fallen by the wayside in terms of science and strategy – and while they may produce results, you can't help but wait for the excitement of the unexpected, the edge of seat action of a lone rider crossing a breakaway gap, the fun that Dan Martin brought to the sport.
A resident of Girona, and now Andorra, and a regular name in the top 10 of multiple Spanish stage races, we're proud to welcome Dan Martin and his quest for fun to our LeBlanq Rioja Joyride.
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