Sunday 25 February 2018

Watch your back Martin, warns Roche

Dan Martin became the first Irishman since 1992 to win a stage of the Tour de France (AP)
Dan Martin became the first Irishman since 1992 to win a stage of the Tour de France (AP)

Former Tour de France winner Stephen Roche believes his nephew Dan Martin will find himself a marked man in the peloton after his victory in Sunday's dramatic stage nine to Bagneres-de-Bigorre.

While Chris Froome was fending off a series of attacks from the Movistar team to defend his yellow jersey on the last of the five categorised climbs, Martin kicked away along with Jakob Fuglsang, and then beat the Dane in a short sprint finish at the foot of the mountain. In doing so, the 26-year-old became the first Irish Tour stage winner since his uncle took stage 16 of the 1992 Tour, and Roche watched on proudly.

"Dan has matured really well," the 1987 Tour winner told Press Association Sport. "He's won at the Volta a Catalunya and Liege-Bastogne-Liege this year so he's by no means a surprise winner, I even predicted it yesterday morning but maybe that's a bit of a fluke for me. But the top guys were busy looking at each other and he did exactly what he needed to do. He'll get less and less freedom now."

He added: "The other team leaders never seem to see him and he's got a habit of slipping through the fishnet, but that won't happen for much longer.

"He'll be looked on now as a rider who can do a lot of damage and they won't give him so much rope."

Roche believes it is just the start for Martin, and tipped for potential podium success in an upcoming Tour.

"I don't know how far he can go and I don't think he does," he said. "The way he's developed, and with his attitude, I think we could be looking at a top five or a top three in Paris in the next few years."

Roche's son Nicolas has had a more subdued start to the Tour riding in a support role for yellow jersey hopeful Alberto Contador with Team Saxo-Tinkoff, but Roche is confident the experience of being on a contending team will serve him well in the long run.

"He's a little bit disappointed in his own performance," he said of the 29-year-old, ranked 44th overall but more than half an hour down. "He would like to have been better but he has had to work for Contador and he knew that before he started.

"He can take a step back and take some pressure off himself now and watch how Contador works. He's a very good professional, he pays close attention to details and that's what Nico needs. He's taking one step back from having been a team leader but he can use it take a step forward in the future."

Press Association

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