Young Irish rider Daniel Martin has been forced to withdraw from the Garmin Slipstream's team for this year's Tour de France, two days before the race starts in Monaco. The 22-year-old was set to make his debut in the event but has had a lingering knee injury. His uncle Stephen Roche, Tour winner in 1987, confirmed to Cyclingnews that the climber has been forced to play it safe and will instead focus on the Vuelta a España.
Dutch rider Martijn Maaskant will take Martin's place in the race.
"He has had a knee problem.. He was doing a lot of training in the mountains around Andorra and in the last couple of days this knee injury has started flaring up," Roche said. "The team prefer to put someone else in...there was a chance he could ride it and do permanent damage; there was a chance he could ride it and pack after two days. The team were prepared to pull him out and avoid any risk to his knee, and at the same time give the place to somebody on the team who has a better chance of finishing."
Cyclingnews was unable to reach team manager Jonathan Vaughters for a comment but he gave a quick reaction on his Twitter feed. "Tough call today. We are having to send Dan Martin home as his tendonitis just didn't clear up. Hopefully he'll rock the Vuelta."
Martin is just in his second year as a pro but he's made a strong impression thus far. Last June he won the Route du Sud and dominated the Irish road race championships, then went on to place fourth in the Tour of Britain and record high finishes in several other races. Earlier this season he finished second on a mountain stage of the Vuelta a Catalunya plus second overall. He told Cyclingnews this week that his goals for the Tour were to ride for Christian Vande Velde and, if possible, to chase a stage win.
Although Martin will be disappointed to withdraw at this late point, Roche thinks it will be better for him in the long run. "I have been at him all along not to ride the Tour de France, to ride the tour in Spain instead," he said, before suggesting that Martin's slender physique might make him more prone to overload at this early stage of his career. "Dan is still very young for the Tour, and he is not the heaviest guy in the peloton. For me it was always preferable that he rode the Vuelta and that way it didn't matter how he did. If he didn't do well he could just end the season. But if he didn't finish the Tour or got a hammering, the season is still very long."
The news will be a dint to the morale of the Garmin Slipstream team, which has been plagued by injuries this year. Vande Velde had a bad crash in the Giro and fractured several bones, although he has recovered and is hoping for another strong Tour de France. While Maaskant won't be able to match Martin's climbing ability, the team will hope that the rider who was fourth in Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders will do something big on the flatter parts of the race.