‘Olympic road race was the most difficult day in my career,’ says Dan Martin

Climbs, cobbles and crashes force more than half the field to retire on a fiendishly tough day in Rio

‘Olympic Road Race Was The Most Difficult Day In My Career,’ Says Dan Martin

Dan Martin in the men’s road race at the 2016 Olympic Games (Watson)

The world s top cyclists are used to being put through the wringer, but even they seemed shocked the Olympic road race1, in which only 65 of the day s 144 starters made it to the finish. The 237.5km course had been touted as the most difficult in Olympic history, and it certainly lived to the hype. Numerous crashes caused many riders to retire, including Vincenzo Nibali2 (Italy) and Geraint Thomas3 (GB), both of whom seemed in good positions to claim a medal. Instead, Greg Van Avermaet (Netherlands), Jakob Fugslang (Poland) and Rafal Majka (Poland) formed a three-man group racing for the win, with the Dutchman coming out on top to claim gold4.

For those without the salve of a medal, however, the race was a painful experience.

It was the most difficult day on the bike I ve had in my career, said Ireland s Dan Martin, who finished 13th, 2-58 behind Van Avermaet. It was just a brutal, brutal day.

I was hoping to race for the medals, but I wasn t on a super, super day. I was still in contention until the end, so I have to be satisfied. I just lacked that little bit on the final climb. It was a strange old race.

Watch our guide to the road race and time trial

A day packed with incident was at time difficult to follow even for spectators, so it was no wonder that the participants found it challenging.

It was anarchy out there, said Brent Bookwalter (USA), who finished 16th. Everything happened. People crashing, flatting, getting gapped out in the wind. It was a very hard day.

Although medals are awarded to individuals, team-members still work to support their leaders. For Michal Kwiatkowski5, the aim was to get his Polish team-mate Majka into a strong position. He finished 62nd, but his team leader claimed bronze.

The cramps were bad, said Kwiatkowski of the long break he was involved in. I was done. But That was always the plan, actually, for me to get ahead and work for Rafa. So it was good I was able to do some good work for him, and I think that helped in the end.

>>> Latest Olympic news and analysis6

There is something special about the Olympics, of course, and Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain), in his final season as a pro, was happy just to be involved.

It was a hard, complicated race, he said. I gave it my all.

I would have liked to have a medal, but to leave the Olympics after such a fantastic day of racing leaves me with a sweet taste.


  1. ^ Olympic road race (
  2. ^ Vincenzo Nibali (
  3. ^ Geraint Thomas (
  4. ^ Dutchman coming out on top to claim gold (
  5. ^ Michal Kwiatkowski (
  6. ^ >>> Latest Olympic news and analysis (

Holidays in Saudi Arabia?

The Kingdom’s ambitious post-oil tourism plan

For most Western readers, a vacation may not be the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the words ‘Saudi Arabia.’ The Persian Gulf kingdom certainly doesn’t exactly have the elements that most American or European holidaymakers would seek the country’s harsh interpretation of Islamic law forbids alcohol and places considerable restrictions on women, for example. Cancun, this is not. And yet, Saudi royals are increasingly pinning their economic hopes on a tourist-friendly future. Last year one Saudi official described tourism as the country’s1 “second most important economic sector.” And now with the country’s new Vision 2030 plan a remarkably ambitious economic blueprint for shaking the country’s “addiction” to the oil industry2 Saudi Arabia is putting its money where its mouth is, with plans to increase investment in the tourism sector from $8 billion to almost $46 billion in 2020.

This investment will see large coastal areas to be given over to tourism projects and new investment in museums and historical sites to create attractions of the “highest international standards,” the Vision 2030 plan says. In an interview with Al Arabiya television aired on Monday3, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 31-year-old son of King Salman leading the attempts to reinvent the Saudi economy, suggested that the country would move to “widely” open the door to tourists of all nationalities. That’s a crucial point. The Saudi Kingdom is already the home of Mecca and Medina, two of the most important sites in the Islamic faith, and it has developed a sizable and growing industry for religious visitors. According to figures from the World Bank, the total number of tourists arrivals to Saudi Arabia reached over 18 million in 2014, though the large majority of those visitors are said to be religious visitors or pilgrims4.

Attempts to attract a wider variety of tourists have met with limited success and outside of Mecca and Medina the country’s tourism infrastructure remains weak. That isn’t so profitable: Pilgrims, understandably, aren’t always the biggest spenders. Estimates suggest that only 2.5 percent of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product5 is currently a direct product of travel and tourism, a paltry amount when compared to the oil and gas sector which contributes around 50 percent6. For comparison, travel and tourism makes a direct contribution of 5 percent of Turkey’s GDP7 and in other countries it can go higher than 10 percent. According to World Bank data8, Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry brought in less than $9.3 billion in 2014, which is less than smaller gulf states like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates received from their own tourism industries that year. It is far behind the huge numbers seen in Western Europe and the Far East.

Saudi Arabia’s attempts to increase tourism revenue are not new. Toby Matthiesen, an expert on the country at the University of Oxford, notes that the idea has been mooted for years. “The realities of Saudi Arabia are, however, such that it is inconceivable that the Kingdom can really become a tourist destination without fundamentally altering the religious and social policies in place,” he explains. Saudi royals certainly know their broader tourism appeal is lagging. In his interview with Al Arabiya, Prince Mohammed decried the country’s lack of an Islamic Museum. “When a non-Muslim visits Saudi Arabia to get to know more about Islam, he or she would not find any center or museum to enrich his or her culture in Islam through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Prince Mohammed said. The young royal also pointed to the country’s considerable non-Islamic history, which includes considerable Christian and Jewish sites, which could be developed to attract a wider range of tourists.

“The European civilizations have very important sites inside Saudi Arabia, as well as an important component of civilization inside Saudi Arabia,” Prince Mohammed told Al Arabiya.

The tourism drive may not all be about money. Prince Sultan bin Salman, who is head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage and brother of Prince Mohammed, told the Associated Press9 this week that it was a chance to not only instill a sense of national pride among Saudi citizens and also to “show off” to foreigners about Saudi culture. At a time of intense pressure in Saudi Arabia from both regional Shiite rival Iran and extremists within the Sunni branch of Islam, tourism could serve a geopolitical purpose as well as an economic one. However, as with many parts of Saudi Arabia’s plan to wean its economy off the ever-diminishing financial rush of oil, experts have doubts that the ambitious plans for a Saudi tourism sector can really work. The problem, of course, may well be the country’s conservative religious establishment. “To attract Western or Russian tourists you need to provide alcohol and bikinis,” says Bruce Riedel, a senior analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “The Saudi clerics will never accept that so the largest markets with the most money won’t come.”

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  1. ^ as the country’s (
  2. ^ “addiction” to the oil industry (
  3. ^ Al Arabiya television aired on Monday (
  4. ^ religious visitors or pilgrims (
  5. ^ 2.5 percent of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product (
  6. ^ 50 percent (
  7. ^ 5 percent of Turkey’s GDP (
  8. ^ to World Bank data (
  9. ^ the Associated Press (
  10. ^ Follow @mradamtaylor (

Marvellous Michelin Food in Madrid

I have just returned from a fantastic Discount Holidays © holiday in Madrid and felt compelled to write about an amazing meal. To re -phrase a well known tagline Probably the best meal in the World at least from my gastronomic experiences. We visited El Club Allard, a two Michelin Star restaurant on The Plaza de Espana near the Egyptian Debod Temple in Madrid. The Head Chef, Maria Marte originally came to Spain from the Dominican Republic and started as a dishwasher. She worked hard culminating in becoming Head Chef achieving a second Michelin Star four years ago .We entered through the large wrought iron door of a grand Modernist building and were greeted by a doorman who escorted us up the beautiful marble staircase to the entrance. The restaurant setting is impressive- tall ceilings, large windows, antique mirrors & only 11 tables- the perfect setting and its ambience adds to the anticipation of what is to follow. There is a choice of 3 tasting menus: Rendevous, Seduction or Revolution (10, 12 or 14 courses) with each course revealed as it is served. We opted for the Revolution menu and our personal waiter who had spent two years in London explained each course brilliantly.

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

Dip It! Your edible place card

The creative and innovative food has Hispanic, South American, Japanese and Spanish influences. They do a vegetarian tasting menu and will accommodate any dietary restrictions. You are invited to start the experience by eating your place card, served with a warm caramelised onion dip that is absolutely delicious and a fun way to start.

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

1: Smokey, warm & cool taste sensations

Each course is presented in a very innovative way from the plates, the appearance, amazing aromas, incredible ingredients and taste combinations. Course No.

1: Smoked eel, with a smokey,slightly hot South American rocoto chilli, white coconut snow & coconut milk. Brilliant combinations of flavours & textures.

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

2: Pipette your sauce on your Sea Popcorn

Course No.

2 you pipetted the sauce on to flavoured quinoa and sea urchin, which had a savoury taste and nutty yet soft texture.

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

3: Down in one? Course No.

3 was a warm shot of white foamy asparagus and butterfish accompanied by a savoury delicious seaweed toast topped with salmon roe. Course No.4 was an innovative savoury cupcake made of yuca topped with an egg & truffle buttercream and a roasted pumpkin slither that you added on top and ate in one mouthful fantastic!

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

4: Looks sweet tastes savoury!

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

5: Sugar coated crayfish with sea garlic

Course No.

5 a little succulent crayfish with a subtle sea garlic sauce -sublime! Course No.6 was usuzukuri -thinly sliced sashimi of white fish topped with avocado cream & pico de gallo (image at the top of the post). Course No.

7 had the most unusual plate, a black volcano like holder with an indent at the top holding a cabbage cream with cockles and topped with a lemon foam.

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

7: A crater of creative tastes

Course No.

8 was an individual mini BBQ with marinated succulent duck with a mini charred baby corn which was actually hand made using masa flour, the flour used in tortilla chips.

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

8: Beautiful BBQ d Duck with Corn

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

9: Sea Bass with a Savoury Foam

Course No.9 was sea bass with a Tsuyu No Moto, a Japanese seasoned soy sauce concentrate. Almost two hours in we got to the meat course No.

10 which was the most tender, succulent Wagyu beef Picanha , a cut popular in Brazil from the rump. Wagyu beef is massaged & fed beer & sake and with lots of fat marbling, makes it incredibly tender that melts in the mouth.

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

10: melt in the mouth beef

We then had a palate cleanser ( course No.

11) of thin crispy wafer of hibiscus flower topped with a Pisco sour sorbet, a Peruvian cocktail, that refreshed us ready for desserts.

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

11:Crisp, crunchy, cool & refreshing

The first dessert was a green coloured white chocolate miniature pear which you ate whole. You crunched through the crisp shell to a melting centre of pineapple.

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

12: Pear or Pineapple? This was followed by the final dessert of intense dark chocolate clusters with chocolate soil, white chocolate cream and a black olive crisp wafer, the salty taste enhanced and complemented the rich dark chocolate. There was also small mint sponges that married all the flavours together.

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid


Dark, chocolatey, minty + a black olive surprise

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

14: Write & Eat! As it was my birthday I was presented with a surprise extra course of strawberry cream in thin white chocolate shells. I cannot add any more superlatives simply the best meal I have ever experienced.

The most foodie way to celebrate my birthday.

Comida Increible El Club Allard!

Marvellous Michelin Food In Madrid

Blow out the Candle!

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