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

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He enjoyed a glass of wine when he wanted to and didn’t obsess over every grain of rice on his plate. Now the headings mention phobias but it’s more a theme to explore rather than a catalogue of negatives. The thing that I remember most about Martin is him being totally wiped out by Porte and showing no resentment for the fact. 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’.

Curiously, while Chased by Pandas paints Martin’s story in pretty pastels, Carrey’s 2017 article was a more nuanced study in light and shadow. It’s hard to tell if this was just a communication blunder that got out of hand, each side not listening to the other… or worse, management frustrated with him. By that I mean a rider who rides his own race, for fun, as well as for winning, for the pleasure of racing ! In his Libé article, Carrey reminded Martin of those days at VC la Pomme, “a factory of champions [. He was the guy launching reckless attacks that didn’t amount to a whole hill of beans but looked good.Retired from the pro peloton since the end of 2021, Dan is now an active investor in growth and start-up companies as a Partner of Rubix Ventures Inc.

The opening chapter is about the fear of crashing and reprises Martin’s wipe-out on the final bend of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he’d given his rivals the slip and was just about to overhaul Giampaulo Caruso only to slide out in sight of the finish line. But about half way this tiny stripling of a lad rocketed out of the bunch to disappear up the lane ahead. On a recon ride in the Alps ahead of the Giro he explores the Sega di Ala climb and a gets a “very strong premonition”. 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.The time is the early 2000s, the place south west English midlands, not far from where Dan grew up, the scene a British Cycling seniors race, five or six laps of an undulating circuit with an off circuit hill finish, about 80/90ks, I was a veteran making up the bunch. I read in CN the excerpt about the way he left Vaughter’s team and it really raised several big question marks about the way that team was being managed and how did it change so much (did it? With no disrespect to Pierre Carrey, I do wonder if Martin’s literary agent, David Luxton (Brendan Gallagher’s Corsa Rosa, Peter Cossins’ Climbers, Geraint Thomas’ According to G franchise), may have missed a trick and should have brought Hannah Grant in as Martin’s ghost. Given that both Martin and Carrey have strayed further into the sport’s dark places in interviews and articles, it seems even lighter still.

This is a fascinating page turning account of the life of an intelligent quirky puncheur, an outsider riding for some of the less glamorous teams in the "mysterious world of cycling" and making a success of doing it his way. To reprise an old theme Dan Martin’s win in the 2013 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège was huge for him and his team. Many probably remember the video of him hobbling around, struggling to walk yet able to race on the bike.Yet imagine our surprise when we got back to the HQ for the results and a cuppa: the lad had ridden over to the break, then straight over them to take to win. As an autobiography this saunters through Martin’s career and given plenty happened there’s a lot to cover. This is the celebration of a true cyclist’s career, which will appeal to anyone who’s embraced the weekend ride whilst dreaming of the mountains. Dan also discusses every aspect of the professional cyclist’s life – food, discipline, money, dreams, friendship and betrayal.

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.No missing or damaged pages, no tears, possible very minimal creasing, no underlining or highlighting of text, and no writing in the margins. There are of course more constructive ways use one’s time than to read road cyclists’ autobiographies, but I dare say – even before I’ve read the book myself – that STS would be positively surprised if he bought (or loaned) the book and wasted a couple of hours of his time by reading it!

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