Tony Martin: I was at a point when I asked myself if I was still a big time triallist
Rolling down the ramp with bib number four, an omen for what was to come 45 minutes later, Tony Martin was motivated to make the most out of the strong form he showcased four days ago, when he led Etixx – Quick-Step to victory in the team time trial.
On the 40km-long course which suited him to a tee, the German put in a monster performance to win the World ITT Championships for the fourth time in his career, following the triumphs of 2011, 2012 and 2013, thus equalling a record which was standing for six years.
Martin blitzed the Doha course, setting the reference time at both checkpoints, before concluding the race in 44:42, a result better than the one posted by 9 of the teams who competed in Sunday’s time trial. The 31-year-old put 45 seconds into defending champion Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus), who finished runner-up, and more than a minute into Jonathan Castroviejo, the Spaniard who rounded out the podium. Two other Etixx – Quick-Step riders, Yves Lampaert and Bob Jungels, time trialed their way to a good result on Wednesday afternoon, coming home 7th, respectively 10th.
“After taking the gold medal with the team, to win the rainbow jersey in the individual time trial is just the icing on the cake. I was a bit scared by the heat at first, but having a good preparation here in Qatar helped me cope with it. I rode without any pressure, was focused only on what I had to do, and not on my rivals, and to come out on top is really incredible. I haven’t had a great year up until this point, but to win two world titles in the space of just four days makes up for everything”, said Tony Martin, now one of the two riders to have four victories at the World ITT Championships.
“It’s amazing. I can’t believe it. Everyone knows I hadn’t had a good year so far, until Sunday so becoming world champion is incredible – it makes everything that happened this year forgotten.
“The course was really made for me. The only thing I was scared of was the heat but I had good preparation at home, then coming here having a good week with the team, getting a lot of knowledge about what I had to do. I was also strong in the head, I was not the favourite, I had no pressure, I just had fun on the road, I have to say.
“I always said I don’t count the victories. I look forward from year to year, and I want to be world champion every year. I’m so proud I am able to wear the world champion’s suit next year – I’ve missed it a lot. Now I’m looking forward to riding with the rainbow jersey next season.
“I have to say I’ve had a pretty tough almost three years now because I couldn’t show my real level in the TT. I was almost on the point where I had to ask myself if I was still a big time triallist or if I was on the way down.
“But going back to the old position on the time trial bike gave me a lot of confidence, I have to say. I felt like another rider, in fact, and the people around me said that I was starting to look like another rider compared to the last months. I was really relaxed before the start. I was just looking forward to the race today.
“For sure it is most important that I returned to my previous position. We made changes to go back to my old position after the Olympics. After three hard seasons, I am once against able to show my best.
“It was a good course for me, flat with some wind. I didn’t care about my power or the split times. The most important thing was to go at a good rhythm, and keep a strong steady pace.
“I really didn’t expect to win today. I had a plan and I just knew that I had to follow my rhythm. I couldn’t pay too much attention to the split times, especially in this heat. But I was pretty surprised to have the best time at the first split, so that was good for morale. Then after I had a big gap at the second split, that made my morale even bigger.
“The first one in Copenhagen in 2011 was the most important for me but I think today is probably the second most important because I had a tough year. I’m coming back at what is a really important point in my career.
“I’m not going for records. The important thing is the honour of wearing the jersey, though for sure I’m still motivated to go for a fifth or sixth title.
“I think for the moment Cancellara has had the bigger victories, with the gold medals in the Olympic Games. For the moment, he’s still on top. For sure, right now, he’s the man. But I’m not at the end of my career yet.
“Before my decision [to join Katusha9 , I said I had to change something. I needed some new input – not necessarily better or worse, just different. I just needed some new people around me, but that’s not to say Etixx-QuickStep influenced me badly, not at all. I was maybe in a comfort zone, maybe I was a bit too relaxed sometimes, but coming to a new team put you under a bit of pressure again, because you have to show yourself and fight for your position in your team.
“But without the preparation and help with the Etixx-QuickStep team in the last weeks, this wouldn’t have been possible, especially Tom Steels. He was amazing in planning for Sunday and for today. I’m sure even when we change jerseys, we’ll stay in touch and remain friends. And the cycling world is small. I don’t say it’s the end forever.”