Froome is favourite for Olympic Games time trial, says Tony Martin

German affirms commitment to cobbles

Tony Martin has named reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome as his favourite for this summer’s Olympic Games time trial. Martin and Froome were on the podium in London four years ago with the German taking silver ahead of Froome’s bronze. Bradley Wiggins won the event.

Back then the course was somewhat flat in comparison to the course in Rio, with only a few undulations to deal with. In Rio de Janeiro later this year, the riders will face a much more challenging prospect with two loops of a hilly course. Martin is no slouch on a climb however, perhaps more so after his disappointment in the time trial at the World Championships last year, he knows that he is up against it and taking home a medal will be a victory within itself.

“I think that the podium will be different from the Olympics to the Worlds. My big favourite is Froome for the Olympics, Dumoulin and hopefully me,” Martin told the press at an Etixx-QuickStep training camp in Calpe, Spain.

“It’s hard to say because it isn’t really a classic time trial. It’s more for climbers. There are a few guys who can really go for the medals.”
For Martin, it is the World Championships in Qatar this October, that provides him with his best opportunity of a title. A victory there would be his fourth, putting him equal with Fabian Cancellara for the number of time trial world titles. Cancellara is yet to decide if he will ride the time trial at the Worlds in his final season but he could be in competition with Martin for the title.

Martin believes that there is a big number of riders that could walk away with the title but he has some extra motivation after missing out so drastically in Richmond four months ago.

“First of all I want to show that I’m back in the Worlds after losing so hard last year. We’ve changed a lot and I really want to show that I’m back in business,” said Martin. “For the Worlds, there are guys like Dumoulin, Cancellara, Malori was strong last year, and me. I think it’s more open in the last years.”

Martin has been meticulous in his approach to his goals for the 2016 season, testing new equipment, positions and training programmes.

Even during the short two-hour ride ahead of the afternoon with the media this Friday, he made a mid-ride switch to his time trial bike to try out a new position on his bike and he is determined to find the right fit before the season truly gets going. He had mooted the idea of using the time trial heavy Giro d’Italia as potential preparation but in the end will use the Tour de France as his final race before the Olympic Games.

Cobbles debut

If this season wasn’t challenging enough for Martin with his Olympic goals, Martin surprised everyone when it was announced that he would target the spring classics. Several years ago during another pre-season media session, Martin professed his dislike for the pave, an opinion perhaps formed by the crash he suffered during his first appearance on the cobbles in the Tour de France. Some gentle persuasion by members of the team and his victory on last year’s cobbled stage at the Tour de France has made him look at the pavé in a different light.

“People have been telling me for years that I have to give it a try in the cobblestone classics and I was never ready for it,” he explained. “For a year I’ve been thinking about it seriously and after the stage win in the Tour de France on the cobbles I was pretty sure that I had to give it a try. This is the right time for me. This is my ninth season in the professional peloton and it is also time for me to set some new goals and get new motivation and to change maybe something in the training. It’s an important point for me before the start of the season.”

Martin will get his first taste of the cobbles at the end of February with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Martin’s teammate, three-time Tour of Flanders champion and four-time Paris-Roubaix champion, Tom Boonen, has already expressed his belief that Martin can win one of the big classics. While he has had cobbled experience in the Tour de France, Martin is sure that riding it under Classics conditions will be different and he is more modest about his expectations.

“It makes me really proud. Tom Boonen is Mr Cobblestone himself so I’m really proud. I really hope he’s right. I have no real expectation about results. I can’t really say that I want to win one race or ride for the podium. I’m more there to help the team, to get some experience in these kinds of races and I would be super happy if I could win a race or get a result but my main objective is to help the team.”
 

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