Chased by Pandas: My life in the mysterious world of cycling

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Chased by Pandas: My life in the mysterious world of cycling

Chased by Pandas: My life in the mysterious world of cycling

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The modern chamois memoir, though, is more an exercise in PR and image management than it is an exploration of a sport forever telling us to ignore what goes on in the shadows and just enjoy the spectacle. When reading such books about the life of a bike racer covering the key points and the stories of race successes, though for me the greater interest is within storyline of the detailed day to day of what went on within a team, the camaraderie with other riders, the management and organisation, the positive aspects of how well the team prepares in it’s approach to an an important race.

As an autobiography this book can’t explore what others thought but this unwitting pioneer angle alone makes him an interesting rider whose career spanned plenty, starting with the old-fashioned way of making his way to a French amateur climb in the hope of attracting attention via results in Europe.Dan Martin said no to British Cycling and even changed nationality to forge his own path, reinventing himself several times along the way to win two monuments and stages in all three grand tours. But, when it comes to actually discussing these fears, Martin’s not the guy for the task, his tone is just too reassuring to allow you to experience any sense of danger, his positive outlook – or his ability to deep-six his fears and not think or talk about them – takes all edge off these topics. His time at Quick-Step seems the best, one small anecdote goes a long way to explaining the “wolfpack” mentality: at the December training camp everyone sits down for dinner together, riders, mechanics, soigneurs all mixing. The “sulphurous Tours de France (1999-2005)” and the “EPO decade” are more a small stain on the carpet than excrement smeared on the walls of the sport. That was 2003 (if you’re one of those people who forever bangs on and on and on about 1989 – the year, not the Taylor Swift album – I’ll bet that makes you feel really old) and Martin was still British, not yet Irish (the following year, 2004, he came the British U18 national road race champion).

The locals hang them to dry and on the outsides of their houses in the town of Espelette, which they’re named for and where the time trial was due to finish.Perhaps planning accounts for plenty, after all if you find a climb that suits, if you know you’re on form and are targetting mountain stages in the third week of a grand tour then the odds begin to narrow, all the same the confidence is notable. Dan is unashamed when it comes to exposing these dark feelings, his weaknesses and how he tried to deal with them, his attitude exemplifying Mark Twain’s quote: ‘Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear’. At the Auberge Basque the menu was magnificent, from the reduction of asparagus from the garden served as a starter (accompanied by a mousseline of asparagus, dried skipjack tuna and marjoram) to the savoury version of a Basque cake, with ewe’s milk cheese replacing the cream. Dan also discusses every aspect of the professional cyclist's life - food, discipline, money, dreams, friendship and betrayal. Though Dan also had successful rides in grand tour races and my feeling is he might have had even more success with greater support within his team(s)!

Was a huge fan of Dan Martin ever since the Liege win, where he displayed an unbelievable level of cool to just tail-gun the pack and pick his moment. Very rarely in sports do regular mortals who are undoubtedly athletic get to race against these hyper talented youngsters (and get our hats handed to us! Martin’s freewheeling approach to cycling, it extended to the dinner table, where he rejected cycling’s myth of monk-like existence. Dan Martin piques your curiosity and draws you in to keep reading with a refreshing deep descriptions of being at the business end of the breakaway. In 2017, as the Tour de France approached the end of its first week, French journalist Pierre Carrey wrote an article for Libération, a panegyric in letter form hymning the praises of Dan Martin, Quick-Step’s Irish puncheur.Many anecdotes get a paragraph or two but could be a whole chapter although the hardback already runs to 300 pages. You look at Martin, though, and there’s no hint he’s a gourmand, there’s no hint he’s ever eaten a square meal in his whole life. Things go from bad to worse, while outwardly their bid to make him a GC contender didn’t work, Martin reveals he was close to breaking his contract and ending his career.

In 2013 as he took victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège Dan Martin wasn't even aware he had been chased by someone dressed as a panda. One thing for sure you can say about him is there’s nothing wrong with his metabolism, he’s got a fully functioning Thyroid. On arrival we discovered that there was another good reason for making a reservation: the hotel’s restaurant was celebrated for its gastronomic qualities, which were underlined by a Michelin star. He saw Martin as having been part of a group of riders who opened a doorway for a better form of cycling, he saw Martin as having helped inspire other riders, including Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet. According to Jonathan Vaughters, Martin’s mother’s genes are the more important, because of something to do with midichlorians and the Force.Chased by Pandas - My Life in the Mysterious World of Cycling, by Dan Martin (with Pierre Carrey) is published in the UK by Quercus. Known, thanks to his racing style and attitude, for being one of road cycling’s last romantics, Dan has always shied away from revealing too much about himself and his story. Even though I think I can safely say that I’ve got a rational mind, I ended up developing an almost mystical rapport with the bike.



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