For a top rider, a rest day means meeting the press – and with Dan Martin ranked third overall after six stages, the Israel Start-Up Nation team leader gave a “virtual” press conference.
Dan finished 18th on Sunday’s very difficult mountain stage, which was complicated by cold and very wet weather, but he came through well. “It takes a lot out of you when you race in those conditions and then we had a long transfer. Of course today we’re feeling a little bit tired, and it’s been a very tough week. Mentally I’m feeling really good, although the legs are a little bit tired But I’m sure I’ll be fighting fit again tomorrow.”
He won his second Vuelta stage and his fourth Grand Tour stage on Thursday. Will he go for more? “It depends on the opportunities, but I think a breakaway will decide a lot of the stages ahead. But who knows? If I have good legs and the opportunity comes then of course I’ll go for a stage, but the focus is on the GC and we’ll see how far we can go with that.”
The veteran is very impressed by the young Israeli riders on the team, especially Omer Goldstein, who is doing duty at the Vuelta. “Omer has done a great job here. He rode at the front yesterday and he’s very competent in the peloton. He’s a really good kid to have around.”
“We saw with Guy Niv how he suffered through the Tour, it was one of the hardest Tours ever but he got through it And Guy Sagiv at the Giro — he made it to the end after a really bad crash. That shows the strength of character and determination that will take them far in cycling.”
“These guys are young, perhaps not young in age but in experience,” he said wryly. Most of the team in Spain are in their first Grand Tour. “Sutherland, Reto and myself are telling them what to do on a rest day. They’ve never done a rest day before! It’s things like that. They have that wide-eyed enthusiasm and obviously they have no idea how they will feel in the third week. We haven’t broken it to them yet that it’s going to be terrible.”
“But it’s nice to see that enthusiasm going into the race and that hunger for success and it’s a really great atmosphere. We’re racing with fun and a smile on our faces.”
Dan is also very happy that multiple Grand Tour winner Chris Froome will be joining the team in January. The two have known each other for years, and “we’ve talked every day this week in the peloton. The fact that he is even on the bike this year after his crash is amazing. I think he’s going to progress so much in this race.”
“I can’t wait to actually race on the same team with him. He’s a real presence and will inspire everybody.The team is going to step up another level next year. It’s been on such a steep learning curve so far, from a small Continental team to now a WorldTour team. Now, with signing the best rider of this generation, I feel like it’s really exciting to be a part of that.”