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Garmin’s Martin closes season with guns blazing as he eyes 2014 Giro

MENTOUGOU MIAOFENG, China (VN) — Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) closes his season with his guns firing and an eye on the 2014 Giro d’Italia. On the highest peak near China’s capital city today, he shot free for second place in the fourth stage of the Tour of Beijing, his likely place when the race ends tomorrow.

“Second overall would be a fantastic way to end the season,” Martin told VeloNews.

He changed into warmer clothes below the Tanzhe Temple on Mentougou Miaofeng Mountain. Further down the road, the announcer welcomed stage winner Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) to the podium. Intxausti beat Martin by three seconds and took the overall lead.

Those positions will likely hold when the race finishes near Beijing National Stadium tomorrow in Beijing. Martin’s runner-up result will add to a season that includes wins at the Tour de France (stage 9), Volta a Catalunya (stage 4, overall), and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“I’ve got this consistency and this base level now. It comes with confidence, as well. I was relaxed in the peloton. I didn’t have any pressure, it’s been a fantastic year,” Martin said. “There were a lot more guys out there who had more pressure to win. I could afford to take more risks.”

Martin said he wanted to wait until there were 1.5 kilometers left to race before attacking. He did not realize Intxausti was free further ahead until he came upon him. He tried to sprint across the line but his Spanish rival had a second kick in the final meters.

“It was up to me. I’m the friggin’ favorite, aren’t I?” Martin said. “Everyone’s watching my wheel and waiting. If you had asked half the peloton at the start of today, the riders would’ve had said I was going to win.”

He needs that coolness under pressure if he wants to win the Giro d’Italia, which is his plan next year. After the Japan Cup and a rest, Martin will begin programming his training and racing around the Italian tour, slated for May 9-June 1.

“I’ll start with less training and start later as well, just because the Giro instead of the Ardennes [Classics] is the aim,” Martin said. “It’s nice being able to plan on a program and plan on being able to win races. We are going to races with objectives.

“Hopefully I can build on this year and continue to progress. I can handle the pressure. Luckily, I have the head and body to make that work out.”

The Giro includes several summit finishes in the final week that suit Martin, including one mountain time trial. However, he admitted he needs to work on his time trialing in order to handle the 46.4km TT to Barolo in the second week. At the expense of explosiveness, he will adjust his position on the bike.

“That’s an area I need to improve on if I’m going to be competitive in grand tours,” he said.

The cold air, which was around 10 degrees Celsius, whirled around the temple and the team cars below on Monday. Martin said goodbye and then climbed into Garmin’s small van for the ride down into Beijing center. It has been a long season. Instead of talking about Giro d’Italia, he wanted to rest.

“That’s why I’m so tired now, it’s the first year that I’ve gone into every race and ended up riding in a team leader role,” Martin said. “I’m progressing doing that, but it’s taken a lot out of me psychologically.”