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Irish set for Tour test

Dan Martin of Garmin-Barracuda and Nicolas Roche of Ag2r La Mondiale line up for today's start of the Tour de France alongside 195 other hopefuls for 20 stages over 23 days.

In total, a distance of 3,497km has to be negotiated before the survivors reach Paris on July 22.

Dan and Nicolas are cousins, but both will be out to nail their colours to the mast on behalf of their respective teams.

Both have come through the current season more or less unscathed and have high hopes of respectable placings overall in the 99th edition of the greatest cycling event in the world.

Cadel Evans, the Australian representing BMC Racing Team is the defending champion, but his form this season has been below par. The course is well suited to his style of racing and the climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees, of which there are 17, will go a long way in supporting his defence.

Hopes are high that Daniel Martin will show his hand on the climbs and winning the King of the Mountains Jersey at the end of the event is not beyond his capabilities. As for Nicolas, the possibility of a top ten overall placing would be a real bonus.