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PK: Because Pat Mc Quaid (the former president of the world governing body) said recently that he had no idea until about 2009 that Lance Armstrong was doping! DM: Nico was the reason I went there; he got me the place on the team. DM: I think I must have been picked up by a team car or something but they basically just drove you to the apartment and fucked you out at the door. PK: You had your first big win in August that year. We are not going to turn a blind eye to this (doping)." It wasn't popular - a lot of the other teams resented them for it - but it was exactly what I wanted to hear.

PK: Nicolas had just turned pro but had raced there a year before? I've never stolen anything, not even a sweet." DM: Yeah, and it goes back to what we were saying about being independent, I was going to go my own way. PK: A few weeks after this unsettling experience in Italy, the Tour is rocked by Operation Puerto? There were so many problems, but I kept telling myself, 'These guys are just idiots. It's clean enough now that (doping) doesn't make much difference.' It was the only way to keep sane. DM: I could probably have gone to any of the French teams but I respected the fact that they (Slipstream) had come in first, and their anti-doping philosophy; they were the first team to say, "We are not going to use needles. I remember sitting in the airport in Corsica facing two flights to get home, and seeing his private plane with LA7F or whatever it was, painted on the tail and thinking, 'Jesus!

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.

We were talking about Dan Martin, and his cousin Nicolas Roche, and Vaughters' conviction that only one was destined for greatness. I loved both of their fathers and fancied both of their mothers and spent a long time watching from a distance as they wrestled with the pressures and perils of their glorious but dark trade. I have flashes of my mother every now and again where I just snap (laughs) but I'm (mostly) a pushover. I remember he separated his shoulder once in a crash, when a cat ran out into the peloton. I never watched him in a race; I never saw him as a cyclist, he was just my uncle. PK: So it was only later that you got to know Nicolas?

Nicolas had just completed his seventh season as a pro when we met for the first time in the winter of 2011. PK: Until that day in Portsmouth when you realised he was 'someone'? DM: Yeah, and even now I wouldn't say I really know him. We stayed in Nice for a couple of days after Paris-Nice, and he drove over from Monaco with his wife and we met for coffee .

He was courteous, witty and dressed like a tailor's dummy. DM: Even then, I'm not sure that was (because of) Stephen.

DM: I know L'équipe were very anti-Armstrong at that point, and my dad wasn't a fan. DM: It was the first time I had been away from my parents, ever, and suddenly I'm getting on a plane at Gatwick in early January with no return ticket, no idea when I'm going to be back, and no real idea what I'm getting myself into. If we had been direct competitors it might have been different, or if I hadn't pulled out of the Tour that year, but I never raced with him. You are surrounded by guys - Vaughters, Vande Velde, Zabriskie, White - who have raced with Armstrong and this doping regime.

Or maybe there's some hindsight involved; maybe if you had asked 13-year-old Dan Martin: "Is this real? It was a letter from a journalist, Pierre Carrey, who had got to know you during your stint with an amateur club, the VC La Pomme, in Marseilles. PK: He was writing for the club website at the time and he paints an interesting portrait of your debut there in 2005 and how difficult it was. PK: Stay with Lance: A year later Floyd Landis goes nuclear with the doping at US Postal and there are some obvious repercussions for your team.

We were talking about Dan Martin, and his cousin Nicolas Roche, and Vaughters' conviction that only one was destined for greatness. I loved both of their fathers and fancied both of their mothers and spent a long time watching from a distance as they wrestled with the pressures and perils of their glorious but dark trade. I have flashes of my mother every now and again where I just snap (laughs) but I'm (mostly) a pushover. I remember he separated his shoulder once in a crash, when a cat ran out into the peloton. I never watched him in a race; I never saw him as a cyclist, he was just my uncle. PK: So it was only later that you got to know Nicolas?

Nicolas had just completed his seventh season as a pro when we met for the first time in the winter of 2011. PK: Until that day in Portsmouth when you realised he was 'someone'? DM: Yeah, and even now I wouldn't say I really know him. We stayed in Nice for a couple of days after Paris-Nice, and he drove over from Monaco with his wife and we met for coffee .

He was courteous, witty and dressed like a tailor's dummy. DM: Even then, I'm not sure that was (because of) Stephen.

DM: I know L'équipe were very anti-Armstrong at that point, and my dad wasn't a fan. DM: It was the first time I had been away from my parents, ever, and suddenly I'm getting on a plane at Gatwick in early January with no return ticket, no idea when I'm going to be back, and no real idea what I'm getting myself into. If we had been direct competitors it might have been different, or if I hadn't pulled out of the Tour that year, but I never raced with him. You are surrounded by guys - Vaughters, Vande Velde, Zabriskie, White - who have raced with Armstrong and this doping regime.

Or maybe there's some hindsight involved; maybe if you had asked 13-year-old Dan Martin: "Is this real? It was a letter from a journalist, Pierre Carrey, who had got to know you during your stint with an amateur club, the VC La Pomme, in Marseilles. PK: He was writing for the club website at the time and he paints an interesting portrait of your debut there in 2005 and how difficult it was. PK: Stay with Lance: A year later Floyd Landis goes nuclear with the doping at US Postal and there are some obvious repercussions for your team.

I'd had a very protected childhood and I learnt a lot about life there and how two-faced people can be. They had tested everyone the day before and I remember being told at breakfast that three or four guys wouldn't be starting because (their haematocrit) was over the 50 per cent level. ' and I never looked at him in the same light again. I was probably fucked, so it was probably 42 (per cent) or something.