Irish climber Dan Martin has confirmed that he will start the Giro d’Italia next week, possibly passing up the chance to ride this year’s Tour in order to test himself on high mountains such as the Zoncolan and Plan de Corones.
The 23 year-old will have greater freedom in Italy as there will be no clear GC leader on the Garmin-Transitions team; Christian Vande Velde is using the race to build form prior to a tilt at the Tour. Tyler Farrar is likely to be the team’s main protected rider, but that will be for the flatter stages.
“I am Amsterdam-bound,” Martin confirmed to Cyclingnews on Saturday evening. “I originally hadn’t even considered it, but the team asked me how I felt about it. They can see the way my form is progressing…over the last couple of years, they have learned from me that you can see my form coming from a mile off. I just get better and better, and suddenly I hit some form.
“I have been pretty consistent this year, compared to previous years. I definitely feel that my legs are getting stronger. I just need to get over these allergies and then I reckon I will be going really well.”
Just over a month ago, Martin finished 13th on the mountain stage at Critérium International, en route to a final position of 14th overall. He then took ninth on a stage, plus 15th in GC at the Tour of the Basque Country. He was hampered by allergies in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but nevertheless netted an 18th place finish at the former. He expects that his reaction to grass pollen will settle down soon, and that he’ll be able to dig deeper on the bike.
“It is yet another adventure,” he said, when asked about his thoughts on starting the second Grand Tour of his career, after the 2009 Vuelta a España. “I am really excited – I always loved racing in Italy – great roads, a great country and great fans. A lot of my results as an amateur came in Italy, and the one race I did as a pro there is [the 2009 Giro di] Lombardia, where I got eighth. So it has always treated me well.
“Our leader is Tyler [Farrar], really, for the sprints. The big aim is, whether with David [Millar] in the prologue or with the team time trial and the sprints for Tyler, to try to get hold of the pink jersey as some stage. But as far as the mountains go, I will have free rein. That is what I am really excited about as well - I am going into it with no pressure at all. It is basically to see what I can do, and just have fun.”
Martin said that he would do his best and see where that leaves him in the general classification. He admits that it’s a bit of an unknown as he’s only done one Grand Tour before, and because the final week is so tough in this year’s Italian race. If he has an off-day, he’ll simply refocus on stages.
Tour de France in 2010, or 2011?
Last July, Martin was supposed to ride the Tour de France, but had to pull from the race two days before the start because of a knee injury. He was scheduled to make his debut at the French this season – and still might – but the fact is that doing two Grand Tours so close together is a tough ask for someone who has ridden just one three-week race.
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) showed last year that it’s possible to be strong at the Giro but be left wanting at the Tour. Martin is much younger than them, and it is likely he could be more affected by such a heavy racing block.
“I am not even thinking of July,” he said, when asked if riding the Giro would prevent him from doing the Tour. “Obviously doing the two hardest Grand Tours of the year at this point of my career would be really difficult, but I just want to focus on the Giro at this moment. With regards the Tour, never say never, but we’ll see.”
Typically able to see the bright side of a situation, Martin explains why he wouldn’t be crestfallen if he doesn’t race cycling’s biggest event this year. “I think the Tour is such a huge race, it is a monster. The pressure involved, the speed of the racing, the quality of the field – it is massive, it is harder than any other bike race of the year. I can do it every year [of my career]. I am going to get stronger, physiologically and psychologically as time goes on - I am going to do the Tour at some stage, but I am just excited to go the Giro and discover that race. Obviously we will see in the years to come about the Tour, but it's all about this race first.”
Martin is at home in Girona, doing some final training rides prior to travelling up to the Netherlands on Wednesday evening. After some team time trial work on Saturday, he has a long endurance session planned for Sunday. After that, he’ll taper in order to ensure that his batteries are fully charged prior to the 8.4 kilometre prologue in Amsterdam on . That flat test won’t play to his strengths, but mythical peaks such as the Zoncolan, Plan de Corones, Pejo Terme, Mortirolo and Gavia will be much more to his liking.