Before May 2011 Garmin-Cervélo rider Dan Martin had never been to California. His introduction to the state at this year’s Amgen Tour of California gave him a vivid view of the Golden State’s varied terrain and weather. From a 30-degree Tahoe blizzard to raking Central Valley winds to 75-degree Southern California sunshine, the 24-year old Irishman saw California in all its scenic moods.
After Martin had a chance to shower off all the champagne from the squad’s wild team podium celebration in Thousand Oaks, Mark Johnson caught up with him to collect his thoughts on his first-ever US race, where he placed a very respectable 14th overall.
MJ: How did this visit fit with your previous notions about America?
DM: Most of my preconceptions about America were proven wrong. It has this reputation of being sunny here and we didn’t really get that. We’ve had some pretty bad weather this week, but I’ve had a lot of fun. The team’s really helped out with that. We’ve had such a ball this week. It’s been really good times.
MJ: How about the racing?
DM: The racing has been hard. A lot harder than I expected it to be.
MJ: You mentioned that you expected everything to be bigger here.
DM: (Laughing). As in the roads and the cars and the beverages in the gas stations, yes! It’s just nice being here, especially racing because there is so much respect towards us here. I mean, really nice hotels and the fans are fantastic—they make so much noise. They are so passionate about the sport as well. I mean, in the time trial the other day, everybody seemed to know who I was. I didn’t even have a name on a car behind me and they still knew who I was. It’s incredible to be racing in that environment.
MJ: The team won the team competition and Tom Danielson took third GC this week.
DM: I think Levi (Leipheimer) and Chris (Horner) have got incredible form, and it was going to be really difficult to beat them on this course this week. Obviously they are both excellent climbers and time trialers as well. Although we had a really strong team coming into it and that’s proven by the team general classification. And third and fourth GC—I think it’s a good result for us. I thought I might have been a bit better on the mountain stages, but that’s just the way it goes. We raced raced really aggressively.
We brought the race to RadioShack. We had them nervous yesterday with Ryder (Hesjedal) and Andrew (Talansky) in the breakaway. I think if Leopard hadn’t of helped RadioShack chase them down it would have been a really nervous moment for them as far as the general classification.
MJ: This year you placed third GC at the Tour of Catalonia and Chris Horner was fourth. Horner is about to turn 40 and you are 24. How does that make you feel, seeing him get better with age?
DM: (Laughing) It kind of scares me! He’s 15 years older than me. I hate to think I’ll be going that long! He’s great in how professional he is, how he goes about the sport and how he loves the sport. He’s really enjoying it at the moment and I think that’s bringing home the results as well. I think when you are having fun and enjoying what you are doing you are going to perform well. At the Tour of Catalonia we were equal on time, so we were trying to beat each other on the sprints. He’s a really cool guy and I’m happy for him to have won this Tour of California.
MJ: How is racing on California roads different than racing in Europe?
DM: It’s just the nature of the roads in Europe; it’s tighter. That’s one of the things I found, this being my first time racing here: there is a lot more technique involved in riding in the peloton in Europe. Here, if you are strong you just ride to the front. In Europe, it’s a real technique. You keep riding to the front, riding to the front and it tires you out in the end.
MJ: What can pro cycling learn from the way the Tour of California is run?
DM: I think where the success lies in this race is that it’s almost like a European type of organization with an American hint as far as the presentation of the race. But I think there’s still a bit of work to be done as far as the route goes for this race.
I spoke to quite a few people in the peloton today and we counted ourselves as quite lucky that we didn’t have to race those first two days. Even if it had have been good weather, it would have made this whole week so, so hard.
California is lucky to have such a diverse amount of scenery and routes that you could make over here. It’s just a case of learning what works.
As far as safety, it’s got to be one of the safest races I’ve ridden all year as far as policing of the roads, There’s never any cars anywhere to be seen. The roads are so much busier here I was expecting a little bit more problems but I think the police did such a good job, and that comes down to a good race organization.
The conditions are great and it’s been a pleasure to ride here this week. Really hard, but that’s always a good pleasure when it’s hard.
More photos of Dan Martin:
In 2011 Mark Johnson is writing and photographing a book on Garmin-Cervélo to be published by VeloPress in early 2012. You can follow his travels with the team on Twitter @argylearmada