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I can't put into words why I feel more Irish than British, and I get asked that question so many times. PK: Maybe it was because England didn't qualify that year? I would start at lunchtime and it didn't bother me not to socialise. PK: But even your uncle had a Plan B (Roche served an apprenticeship as a fitter). Well, it's probably more fans than journalists who ask, or friends who are trying to have a dig at me. I went to a Catholic school in Tamworth - St Gabriel's - and I'd say at least half the kids had an Irish background, and supported the Irish national team. I would do my homework on the day I got it, rather than wait until the deadline like everyone else. And I think it drove me to be more disciplined because there was no Plan B. So maybe hindsight is affecting my judgement, but I remember when (Operation) Puerto happened in '06, it didn't feel like a big surprise to me. It was more than 10 years ago, before you became one of the best classics riders, winner of Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of Lombardy, long before you cast your sights on the Tour de France. This is what your French club explained to me: "Dan Martin? He's nice, but he's useless." Since then, it's fair to say you've improved a bit . PK: There was a piece about you in Liberation last month during the Tour: 'Dan Martin, tu es un heros'. DM: I had picked up a knee problem two weeks before, and could have had (it treated with) a jab of cortisone but I didn't want to do that. DM: Yeah, although there was no issue with the rules. The cortisone would degenerate the tendon and I didn't want problems later in my career. I believed they did what they did and regretted it. But you're more than a good athlete: you're a hero. DM: Yeah, I don't know, because even back then we didn't know how bad the situation was with the doping and stuff.
He was courteous, witty and dressed like a tailor's dummy. DM: Even then, I'm not sure that was (because of) Stephen. DM: Because she just thinks it's great being British (laughs): 'Why wouldn't you want to have this British flag on you? DM: Yeah, but even back then, when nationality was never even a question, we were Irish. I thought: 'Let's not waste this hour at lunchtime and I'll have some free time for the bike when I get home.' PK: So you were ordered? Three years later, I travelled to Girona to meet Dan. Last week he travelled to London for the World Athletics Championships where his wife, Jess, was competing for Great Britain in the 10,000m. I think it was more that David Duffield's voice sounded the same in real life as it did on TV (laughs). DM: We used to go over (to our grandparents in Dundrum) for two or three weeks in the summer, and every second Christmas, but they (Stephen's family) were in France and weren't always there. Two fractured vertebrae - a legacy of his fall on the ninth stage to Chambery - had kept him off the bike since the Tour. I have definitely grown as a person since I met Jess. DM: Yeah, I've never felt that anger and frustration are the best way to deal with things.