Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) crosses the line at Il Lombardia, the last race of his 14-year career.

Dan Martin is content after his last race: ‘It’s time to move on’

Dan Martin chose Il Lombardia for his last race before retiring, and a hard day on the bike confirmed that it was the right decision.

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Dan Martin raced his last professional race at Il Lombardia, choosing to end his 14-year career at the Monument he won in 2014.

“I’m not going to lie, I was emotional at the start and I had a few tears in my eyes at the sign-on,” Martin told CyclingNews. “But then in the race, I just turned to business mode.”

It was an emotional last-ever sign-on for Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation).

A week after coming sixth at the Giro dell’Emilia, Martin worked for Israel Start-Up Nation team leader Michael Woods at Il Lombardia, before riding to the finish in Bergamo and drawing a line under his career with 38th, 5:36 behind winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). Woods had a far better day than his Irish teammate, finishing ninth from the elite chase group, but the difficulty of the race helped Martin come to terms with his decision to retire.

“I think it was good that the race was so hard and that I didn’t have the best day, because I spent the whole day suffering and it made me realise I don’t want to do it anymore,” Martin said. “I expected to be more emotional at the finish, but it was more relief and happiness that I don’t have to put myself through that anymore. It just confirms that I’ve made the right decision.

“I felt kind of empty all day – empty physically, but empty mentally, too. I think I’ve given everything, in the last two years especially, but throughout my career. It’s time to move on and, yeah, I feel really content with my decision.”

The 35-year-old announced his retirement before last month’s Tour of Britain, towards the end of a season in which he finished both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. In May, Martin won a stage in Italy to complete the fabled Grand Tour stage win trilogy. At the Tour a few months later, he enjoyed some breakaway action and climbed with the best to finish in the top 10 on two of the hardest stages. All the while, he was turning his future over in his head.

Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) winning stage 17 of the 2021 Giro d’Italia, completing the GrandTour trilogy.

“I had a feeling then that it might be my last Tour, because I had already started playing with the idea of not doing a Grand Tour next year if I was going to continue, just because they’re just so brutally hard,” he explained. “But I’m not sure when I decided. It was a decision that came to me over a period of time, and it definitely wasn’t an overnight thing.”

Martin has been vocal about the impact professional cycling can have on the rider, both physically and mentally, and regardless of results.

“Obviously, physically I could continue for a number of years but everybody underestimates the mental toll this sport takes on you and the sacrifice you have to make at home, and the commitment,” Martin said. “Mentally, I’m just tired. To maintain this level you have to basically never switch off and that’s tiring. That’s what I realised. I didn’t feel capable mentally of maintaining the level of performance I had over the last years so that’s why I decided to stop.”

The Irishman turned pro with Slipstream in 2008 after riding with them as a stagiaire from the previous August. He took his first victory in his first full season, winning the Route du Sud in June 2008. He steadily kept adding to his palmarès as the years wore on, including the Tour of Poland in 2010, 2013 Volta a Catalunya, Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2013 and Il Lombardia the following year (he raced both Monuments 13 times each), and five Grand Tour stage wins between 2011 and 2021. In all, he raced 19 Grand Tours and took 22 professional wins.

“When I turned pro, I never would have imagined that I would be retiring with a palmarès like this,” Martin said. “Obviously, it’s been a special ride and I have to say thank you to all the people who’ve joined me on that ride over the years.

“The sport was a very different environment when I turned pro, but I just feel fortunate to have landed in cycling when I did and into that team [Slipstream], especially. To achieve what I have done, and keeping my morals, it means I’m exiting the sport with my head held high. That’s a really nice feeling.”

Dan Martin shares a friendly moment with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) beyond the finish line of his last ever pro race.

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