Few riders were beaming more broadly than Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin when they finished their Tour de France prologue rides in Liège on Saturday. The stats say that he finished 24 seconds down in 55th place on the day, but of far more importance to the Irishman was the fact that his Tour de France career was under way after some dashed hopes in the past.
“When I set off I was concentrating so hard on my effort that I didn’t notice the people around the course at first. But then I became aware it was a tunnel of noise,” said Martin. “I feel like a Tour de France rider now. It’s actually one of the first prologues I’ve ever done as the other grand tours I’ve done have started with team time trials.”
The Irish climber admitted he was happy to put the prologue behind him and be able to focus on something more in his line during the opening road stage to Seraing on Sunday. But don’t expect to see him in the thick of the action just yet. “My aim now is to relax and stay out of trouble in the first week and count time down until we reach the Alps. I’ve always thought that the mountains are what the Tour de France are all about and that a lot of people tune in to see that stunning French countryside and us suffering our arses off in it,” he said.
Martin says his role is very much one of a support rider to Garmin-Sharp’s Giro d’Italia winner, Ryder Hesjedal. “I’m definitely in the race to help Ryder, I’ve got no GC ambitions at all. My other role this year is very much to see the Tour as a learning experience. My chance of riding for the GC will come next year.”
Asked whether he had any last-minute advice from his cousin, Ag2r’s Nicolas Roche, Martin said: “I’ve not spoken to Nico recently, but it’s good to know he’s here. I think we’re the only riders from the same family in the race this year. But I won’t be judging my Tour against his as he’s got more experience. This is his fourth Tour and he’s got a team built around him.”
For the record, Roche finished 56th on the day, one second and one place behind his cousin.