Thursday 18 January 2018

Tour de France: Martin sets sights on stage win to crown Tour debut

Gerard Cromwell

For the first time in two decades, Ireland will have two riders in the Tour de France, with cousins Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin lining out for the opening prologue time-trial in Liege this afternoon.

Roche is riding his fourth Tour, but his younger cousin and Tour debutant Martin may provide the surprise of the season and is tipped by many to win a stage or even take home the King of the Mountains title.

"For me, the GC isn't really a realistic aim," said 25-year-old Garmin Sharp climber Martin yesterday. "I've got team-mates who are much stronger than me, so it doesn't really matter to me if I lose time the first week.

"I just want to try and get through it as stress-free and fresh as possible. Hopefully then, in the mountains in the second week, I'll have a little bit more in reserve than those who've been fighting not to lose time.

"That's the price you pay when you're going for the GC, you need to be in the front all the time and that takes energy, and hopefully that will play into my hands and I'll have a little something extra when the mountains come."

Nerve-wracking

The Tour kicks off with a 6.7km prologue around the streets of Liege today and will spend three nerve-wracking days in Belgium before heading to the wider roads of France on Tuesday.

But it will probably take until the stage nine time-trial in Besancon on Monday week before the race for yellow truly settles down, with Englishman Bradley Wiggins and Australia's Cadel Evans the two clear bookmakers' favourites for overall victory.

"Basically, I want to stay out of trouble in that period," added Martin.

"I think it's going to be a massive learning process. People say it's different to every race on the calendar.

"Obviously it's still a bike race, but it's the biggest bike race in the world. I'm just going in to see how it goes the first couple of days, first week or so, then maybe set some targets from there.

"Physically, I'm definitely capable of going for a stage -- whether that's possible or not I don't know.

"There are a lot of strong riders out there and also with the team we've got here, I could well end up riding for one of the guys.

"We've got Tom Danielson and Christian Vande Velde who both finished in the top 10 before, and Ryder Hesjedal is going for the Giro-Tour double so that could really shape our race.

"You've got the team prize as well, so there's so many different races within a race that I'm not really making personal ambitions, it all comes down to what the team want me to do."

Tour de France,

Live, Eurosport/ITV4, 2.0

Irish Independent

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