Dan Martin remains upright round the final corner
Dan Martin has spent most of this season on the deck. He crashed out of the Giro on the first day, he crashed in the Tour any number of times and most memorably of all, he crashed on the final corner of Liege-Bastogne-Bastogne when he was in a position to win it for the second year in a row.
He also crashed on the final corner of Il Lombardia last year when he finished fourth, so it was a nerve-racking right-hander he had to negotiate in the final few hundred metres of this year’s edition. That he was in a position to have glory once again snatched away by lack of traction was thanks to a whipcrack of an attack with half a kilometre to go. From the back of a nine-man leading group, he went past everyone as if they were bollards. No-one responded, but the final corner didn’t help them out and Martin therefore took the second Monument of his career.
How to come second
Over the course of the race, the long ascents reduced the peloton to those who can climb and then the short partly-cobbled ascent to Bergamo Alta reduced it further to only those who can climb quickly. There were nine of them and Martin was the last man to gain entry to this exclusive club.
When Martin went past everyone shortly afterwards, who should be on the front of the bunch looking from side-to-side in search of someone to do the work for him but Alejandro Valverde? Seemingly embracing my decision to label him Queen of the Bridesmaids last week, he promptly finished second. However, just as relentlessly solid placings earned Peter Sagan the green jersey in this year’s Tour de France, so familiarity with the lower steps of the podium has earned Valverde the lead in the UCI WorldTour Rankings, a much-ignored, season-long competition that people are happy to win even if they don’t really set out to compete for it.
As far as stuff that’s really worth winning goes, 2014 is over. The Tour of Beijing sees out the season next week. Valverde’s riding and so is Alberto Contador who’s in second place in the UCI WorldTour Rankings, so technically that’s up for grabs. As for how keen people are to grab it, imagine the telly’s slightly too loud and you’re quite comfy on the sofa. If the remote control’s on the floor next to you, you’ll grab it. If it’s over there on the armchair, you’ll probably just live with things as they are.