Dan Martin is wasting little time getting back onto his bike following a brilliant Tour de France, as he pulls on his team’s jersey this weekend for the Clasica de San Sebastian.
The UAE Team Emirates’ man, who picked up eighth place in the General Classification (GC) finish and the award for the most combative rider at the Tour following his impressive attacking performances, will look to capitalise on his good form and become the first Irishman to win the one-day race on August 4.
Joining Martin in the Basque Country will be team mates Kristijan Durasek, Diego Ulissi, Alexandr Riabushenko, Manuele Mori, Jan Polanc and newly crowned Norwegian national champion, Vegard Stake Laengen.
The riders will be guided by highly experienced Spaniard, Matxin Joxean Fernandez, who has unprecedented knowledge of the region.
Fernandez said: “For lots of riders the Clasica San Sebastian is an opportunity to take advantage of the physical conditioning they’ve built up during the Tour de France.
“Our line-up will include two riders who have recently raced in the Grande Boucle; Daniel Martin, who was outstanding and always combative in France, and Kristijan Durasek, who is also very consistent on French climbs.
“We will also have Diego Ulissi, who has the skills to be an important rider in this race and proved recently at Prudential Ride London that he is in top form.
“But the competition is going to be fierce. It will be essential to make it to the final in a good position and with enough energy left to spend on what, in these last few years, has turned out to be the crucial part of the route – the climb on Murgil Tontorra.”
Dating back to 1981 and in its 38th edition, the mountainous 229km classic is a favourite among the climbers.
The 2018 route is similar to that of last year’s, with eight categorised climbs featuring across the day, with the brutal Iturburu, Jaizkibel and Arrate challenging riders to over 22kms of hard climbing.
The race could be defined by who emerges at the summit of the final one, the Tontorra, first, but they will have to manage their technical descent into San Sebastian if they are to take home the win.
Geraint Thomas shared his emotions after being officially crowned the 2018 Tour de France champion, the first Welshman to win the prestigious race on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
Thomas, 32, beat Dutchman Tom Dumoulin by one minute 51 seconds, with reigning champion and Team Sky colleague Chris Froome third.
“You know I believed I could beat everyone on my day, but to do it day after day and for three weeks, which is the first time I tried, is just insane,” Thomas said.
Watch his full interview below.
Thomas crossed the line in Paris on Sunday night to seal victory by one minute and 51 seconds from Team Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin, with his Sky team-mate Chris Froome third.
Thomas became the third Briton to win the Tour following Sir Bradley Wiggins and Froome, with the trio having won six of the last seven editions between them, all in Sky colours.
The 32-year-old said winning cycling’s biggest road race was a better feeling than his two Olympic gold medals in the team pursuit – and now he wants more.
“I’ve certainly got the taste for it,” he said. “This year I’ve really enjoyed racing for stages and being aggressive. Racing on instinct almost.”
Where his next race might come remains to be seen. Thomas was originally pencilled in to ride the Vuelta a Espana in August, but that seems less likely following events here.
Any decisions about next season – when Sky may find themselves picking between Froome’s ambitions for a record-equalling fifth Tour crown and Thomas’ status as defending champion – are for the future.
“I haven’t thought about that yet,” Thomas said. “At the moment I just want to enjoy this.”
Standing on the podium in Paris, Thomas was quick to thank Froome, who rode in support of the Welshman once he realised his own ambitions of that fifth Tour title were beyond him.
Tales of acrimonious leadership battles in cycling are legion – not least involving Wiggins and Froome – but Thomas never seemed to have an issue with the four-time Tour winner.
“Big respect to Froomey,” he said in his victory speech on the Champs-Elysees. “It could have got awkward, there could have been tensions, but mate you were a great champion.”
The pair had crossed the line arm-in-arm at the end of the 116km final stage from Houilles, during which Thomas enjoyed all the traditions of the last day of the Tour.
The 32-year-old is a two-time Olympic champion on the track, but as he stood on the podium on the Champs-Elysees he recalled memories of watching the Tour as a youngster.
“I got into cycling because of this race,” he said. “I remember running home from school to be a part of it, and now I am here stood in the yellow jersey. It’s insane.”
At the end of a disjointed speech, during which the overwhelmed Thomas struggled to remember the names of his team-mates and almost forgot to thank his wife, he finished with a mic drop.
“Kids, you will have knocks and downs but believe anything is possible,” he said. “With hard work it can can come off. Thank you very much and vive le Tour.”
Thomas has worn the yellow jersey since victory in La Rosiere on Stage 11 and effectively wrapped up the win on Saturday’s time trial, but was still trying to take it all in.
“Maybe when I’m like 70 sat telling some 18-year-old what I used to be it will sink in,” he said. “It’s incredible, the stuff of dreams.”
Though he had led Froome by more than a minute and a half after his victory on Stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez, Thomas revealed he was only fully handed the leadership of the team after the four-time winner faltered on Stage 17 to fall even further back just days before Paris.
“The real defining moment was when he had his bad day (on Stage 17), but at the same time I was always allowed my own freedom,” he said.
“It wasn’t like I had to work for him as a domestique. Obviously the guys were riding for Froomey and I just stayed with them. I was the back-up leader and if I was good, I was good and I would stay in front.”
In a race that saw several contenders lose time to mishaps, Thomas stayed out of trouble and was able to stamp his authority on the race more and more as it went on, while Froome had been put on the back foot from the opening stage when a late excursion into a field cost him 51 seconds.
Those 51 seconds were useful, but Thomas found other ways to pick up time on Froome and everybody else throughout the race. In total he picked up 33 bonus seconds, 20 of them from his two stage wins, with the rest coming through bonus sprints or lower placings.
“The two and the one (bonus seconds) in the first week were there, so why not take them?” he said. “When it came to the last mountain-top finish in the Pyrenees, when Froomey was dropped, it was just about stamping my authority on it.
“I just kept picking them up when I could, and just racing.”
Thomas got to savour the rewards on Sunday – and he has plans for plenty more of the same.
“I’m going to have a big party for a couple of weeks,” he said. “Maybe even a month.”
Thomas rode like a man who knew this was his best chance, perhaps his only chance, to win the Tour, and one he was not going to let get away.
He once said he never wanted to end up wondering what might have been, and now never will.
“It would be nice (to win more Grand Tours),” he said. “But if I do nothing now for the rest of my career I can be happy.”