ANS, Belgium (VN) — It was the fall heard ’round the sport Sunday, one that cost Dan Martin what looked like a second monument win. He arrived at the Garmin-Sharp bus to cheers, but there was no comforting Martin, who crashed on a left-hander with 250 meters to the line, 250 meters to what appeared Liège immortality, after back-to-back wins.
Forty-five minutes after, he still wasn’t exactly sure what happened. He’d attacked atop the final rise into Ans and established a gap over the field of favorites, and bridged across to Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha). It was looking like a bouquet for Martin (Garmin-Sharp), but then it was nothing at all.
“It’s one thing, if you make a mistake, or you know what you’ve done. But I just fell out of a tree, basically,” Martin said. “You look at the road, I think there’s a batch of oil or something. Yeah, I think I pretty much had tears in my eyes before I hit the floor.
“It’s hard — there’s not really words. To race seven hours like that and just for it to happen on the last corner? Yeah. It’s poetry.”
For Martin, it’s the bad kind, with neither rhyme nor reason.
“I didn’t know what was going on behind, I didn’t know how close the group was. All I know is that I was feeling pretty good still and I was very relaxed. I was 250 meters. Podium was definitely on the card. I don’t know if maybe Gerro would have caught me. I don’t know. There’s no way of knowing, you know?”
When Martin was on the ground, the first thing he thought wasn’t what if, or why, but simply, “Ow. Pretty much, like, what happened? I was just — I knew straightaway. I’ll say there’s not really words.”
“The team rode unbelievably well all day. Everybody was so relaxed going into La Redoute. I rode a perfect race. I suffered a bit on [Côte de la Roche-aux]-Faucons, and had a bit of a difficult moment there and just really stayed relaxed and let the other guys attack and saved everything for one last effort in the last kilometer. And it nearly paid off. That’s the way it goes,” he said.
Asked if it was the most let down he’d ever been in a bike race, Martin made light of the fall, somewhat.
“It’s only a bike race, really. It’s still only a bike race. After Lombardia last year — I need to start getting used to falling off on the last corner, it appears. Hopefully that’s the last time. I don’t want to make a habit of it. But yeah. It just sucks. But that’s life.”
His shoulder, he said, was “fine,” and his hip was swollen, but there are no serious injuries to speak of. Just the curse of what if.
“Everybody was gutted, you know?” he said of the team. “It’s like … as I say, we stand by, whatever the results were, we were going to stand together. They know we came so close. And it’s — we’ll just have to come back next year and do the same thing again and hopefully we’ll have a better outcome.
“Obviously we’ve still got Tom [Jelte Slagter] sixth. Still had Tom in sixth place, you know? It’s not a bad day for the team, and on another day it would have been, we would have been pretty happy with the result.
“But yeah, it’s a bit hard to take.”