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2011 Giro della Toscana champion Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) on the podium.
Irishman set to ride Vuelta a Espana
Speaking from Girona on Friday evening, Martin told Cyclingnews that although he was disappointed, he could understand the thinking behind his omission from the squad. Christian Vande Velde and Ryder Hesjedal will lead the team’s tilt at the overall standings, while Tom Danielson got the nod to offer them support in the mountains.
Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar will offer the team an outlet in the sprints, while a quota of rouleurs, including David Millar and David Zabriskie, should round out the line-up.
“Every rider that’s going to the Tour de France is going for a reason,” Martin said. “I’d have been going to try and support the guys in the mountains but it’s the third week that’s the important one, and they needed to have confidence that I was going to be there. Having no experience of the Tour and with guys who are going there to get near the podium this year, they needed to be sure that I could be up there, but that didn’t fit this year.”
After missing out at the last minute due to a knee injury in 2009, Martin admitted that it was difficult to be told that he would have to wait another season before making his Tour debut, especially given that he has reached late June very much on song.
“Of course I’m disappointed, because I’m just coming into my top form,” Martin said. “But I’m still young. Maybe not so much in age as in maturity. I feel like I’ve a lot of development to go. You can tell that just by looking at me, I’m lacking a bit of strength on the flat.
“Obviously I’d like to test myself against the best riders in the world. It would have been great just to see what I could do at the Tour and see what I could achieve on the biggest stage, but it’s a case that the team’s got greater objectives now.”
One of those objectives is the team time trial, which has long been a favoured event of Garmin-Cervélo manager Jonathan Vaughters. However, Martin does not believe that the short 23km test, coming just two days into a three-week stage race, played a part in his exclusion from Garmin’s July plans.
“Not really, because with my punchiness as a rider, I’m actually not bad at the team time trial,” Martin said. “I performed quite well at the Giro last year. That’s not really an issue. It’s going to be a super fast TTT, and we’ve got a lot of strong guys for that event, but it’s just an objective in the team this year.”
Instead, Martin modestly insisted that he may have been a luxury his team could not afford in the white heat of July.
“Having me go to the Tour just as a wildcard just to see what I can do is not really fair on guys who can go there and help the team leaders.”
Looking towards the Vuelta
There is of course a gnawing frustration for a top-level professional who is still waiting to make his debut at the Tour de France, particularly one of Martin's sparkling class, but he is resolute that his opportunity will arrive sooner or later.
“It’s what gets the most media attention,” Martin told Cyclingnews. “When I say I’m a cyclist people ask ‘do you do the Tour de France?’ But that can wait, my time will come. It’s just a matter of being patient. It’s hard to be disappointed when I can go to other races that I can try and win. Not many other riders can say that.”
Instead of riding the Tour, Martin will now focus his attention on the Vuelta a España, where he will lead a strong team along with Christophe Le Mevel. The Irishman enjoyed a stunning run of late-summer results last year, and he is hopeful that he can reproduce those kind of performances on climbs that seem well-suited to his characteristics.
“I’m going to stay patient and go to the Vuelta, and I’m sure we’ll have a super strong team at in Spain as well so we can go there and just enjoy racing there,” Martin said.
“Jonathan’s been honest with me from the start of the season, and the Tour was never set in stone. There was a chance, but I was never going to be sure to go. I was on the long list, but from the first time he met me, he said that the Giro and the Vuelta were better options for myself. For my own development as a rider and with the steeper climbs there, the Vuelta is a more realistic option in terms of getting results.
“The season’s by no means over and the Vuelta starts on my birthday this year, so that could be nice with the team time trial.”
Martin’s win in Arezzo last Sunday suggested that he was bringing his form to a peak just in time for July, but he was confident that he would be able to maintain his condition between now and his 25th birthday on August 20.
“My form tends to be pretty consistent,” he explained. “I’ll probably take a week relaxing and just riding when I feel like it, and maybe just try and notch the form down a little bit before building up to probably Poland and the Vuelta.”
Last year, Martin announced himself on the world stage with an assured victory at the Tour of Poland, and one of the consolations he can draw from his Tour omission is the chance to return there as defending champion.
“I’m excited to go back to Poland and defend my title there,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve come back wearing number one in any race actually, so that will be an exciting week after having had such a great time there last year.”
Before that, however, Martin travels to Emyvale for the Irish road race championships on Sunday. With Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Philip Deignan (RadioShack) and defending champion Matt Brammeier (HTC-Highroad) all lining up in county Monaghan, as well as a strong domestic field, he will face a stiff challenge in regaining the title he won in 2008.
Speaking ahead of a Friday evening flight to Ireland, Martin said that he was hoping for a selective race at the weekend.
“I’ve got no idea what the circuit’s like, I’m just going to go back and see,” he said. “It would be great to win the title, of course, but I can’t get myself too worked about it and put pressure on myself because it’s quite an open race.
“If the course isn’t selective enough, it can be very hard to beat guys. There are a lot of strong riders in Ireland now. But hopefully it’s a really hard day, that will suit me better.”